ATHENS – The fireworks display over the Acropolis constituted one of the world’s most magnificent New Year’s celebrations and there was a lot on the minds of its observers.
Last year was a struggle for many Greeks, and while it wasn’t a tragic year as in some countries, Hellenes in the Homeland and the Diaspora were looking forward to better times ahead.
Almost every commentary in every country in every language said the same thing: “Good riddance to 2022 – let’s hope for a much better year in 2023.”
The people of Greece had personal and altruistic reasons for that sentiment. Inflation was returned after being buried for decades – the working and poorer classes being hit especially hard. And there were nights recently when more than a few Greeks of all ages went to bed wondering these not if Santa Claus, but if Erdogan was coming “in the night.”
On the other hand, many good things were happening last year too – the tourism record may have been broken, and indeed investments as well as tourists were coming and more are expected next year. That reflected both pent up travel demand after the pandemic and greater faith in Greece as the reforms of the Mitsotakis government moved forward.
The tourism revenue and general economic recovery as well as the waning pandemic enabled most Greeks to have their best holiday season since the onset of the COVID pandemic.
In Athens on New Year’s Eve, the streets, squares, and balconies sparkled with Christmas lights. Syntagma Square was packed with people for the return of the annual concert and at many restaurants reservations had closed days ago.
The lucky ones celebrated with friends and family, many listening to their first live music in a while. The musicians, who suffered the past three years, were happy too.
The following day friends and family gathered to partake of Greek New Year’s traditions like cutting the Vasilopita cakes for good luck and God’s blessings, and to play cards while the rest watched special shows on TV.
And there was one more thing that brought smiles especially to the faces of the children. Greeks exchange holiday gifts on New Year’s Day, St. Basil of Caesarea replacing St. Nicholas of Myra (both noted ancient cities in Asia Minor) as the bringer of toys and other goodies.
So the celebrations this year were mainly joyous, but few Greeks can ignore what is happening to their north, not only out of compassion for the people of Ukraine, but because of concerns Turkey may be learning all the wrong lessons.
We will end on a different note, however. We at The National Herald join you in hoping for the best – and wishing you and yours a happy and healthy New Year.