Wednesday, December 12, 2018

On the non-existent Christmas in Lebanon

Artwork by Tarek Chemaly
If advertising is the barometer of the economy, and we know it is, then we are - for sure - in deep trouble. There are almost no Christmas ads. I saw two for New Year's parties in two different restaurants where hiring singers (famous or semi-famous) is de norme, and that is about it.
On my instagram feed, it's been ads upon ads of discounts - severe discounts. Anyone except one specific luxury store whose sales start right after Christmas have slashed their prices hoping to lure shoppers into otherwise empty stores. Yes, on a well-known shopping street, four stores next to one another stand closed with no one renting them.
With just days to go till Christmas, shoppers are trying to budget themselves - understandably. There are decorations on the streets for sure, municipalities have injected large budgets for that. It does add to the ambiance (I think of Jounieh as a prime example). But I have heard it from many shop owners or managers that the situation is absolutely dismal.
The weather is a mixed blessing - this year there are rains: On the one hand we need that, on the other as a restaurant owner told me "as soon as it rains people get wet and stop coming out". Restaurants are one of the rare industries still - barely - standing on its feet mind you.
Yes I know, it all sounds like I am some Debbie Downer. But sometimes I feel everyone is living in some protected bubble unable to see the people who no longer wait for the night to rummage through trash bins, who are unaware how much schools and universities are barely thriving since parents no longer can pay tuitions (in a specific case, this fall, a little less than two thirds of the students at a certain university did not renew their inscriptions casting a major doubt on the ability of the university to keep itself alive).
I do understand that the whole nature of advertising is changing, and that billboards no longer represent the whole of the festive season, but let's be real: no Christmas ads does not sound good. At. All.