Christmas cutbacks.jpg

Christmas cutbacks

By CHRIS GRAEME [email protected]

Lisbon’s Christmas lights were subtle and uniform in colour this year to reflect Portugal’s current economic recession and Lisbon Câmara austerity measures.

Instead of the usual riot of blues, greens, reds and yellows decorating the capital’s main commercial thoroughfares around Baixa Chiado, Praça do Município, Praça do Comércio and Rossio, the city council opted for a refined silvery icicle look.

The cuts are significant in comparison to 2009, around €200,000 in both Lisbon and Porto.

And this year the usual mega Christmas tree towering over Parque Eduardo VII, Praça do Comércio or Praça do Império didn’t even appear through lack of sponsors.

Even so, Lisbon Câmara still managed to spend €846,000 on Christmas lights which while not so garish as in previous years were, nevertheless, tastefully refined and understated.

António Costa, the President of Lisbon Câmara, stressed the importance of the lights in stimulating commerce in Lisbon around Christmas and making the streets seem lively and welcoming.

In Rossio Square, a more traditional approach has been used with the installation of a French carousel and an ice-skating rink.

Most municipal câmaras, who fork out for the festive lighting, said this year that it was important to maintain the Christmas lights for trade and commerce in the build up to the Christmas shopping rush.

However, many have decided to reduce the time that the lights remain up, switched on and the places where they are installed.

“Independent of the current cost-cutting measures being followed by Porto council, we have made an effort to find an elegant and dignified solution to this year’s Christmas lights, making sure that the main shopping areas and squares in the city are covered,” said Cristina Pinto from PortoLazer, responsible for the lighting in Portugal’s second largest city.

The idea is to be creative, by using lighter materials which are easier to install and, of course, using energy-saving light bulbs.