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News 02 Oct 17

New Year Comes Too Early for Serbia's Capital

Locals in Belgrade have been startled to see New Year decorations going up a full three months before 2017 draws to a close, with some calling it a crude distraction.

Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade
Decorations being put up in the central Knez Mihailova street on September 29. Photo: Filip Rudic/BIRN

Christmas and New Year are coming far too early in the Serbian capital – at least as far as decorations are concerned – locals are compaining.

Many have reacted with mockery after the authorities in Belgrade decided to decorate the city centre on September 29 - a whole three months before the year runs out.

"We have a government unconstitutionally imposing austerity measures on seniors, slashing budgets all over the place, but then spending lots of money on decorations," one Belgrade resident, Jovan Ristic, told BIRN.

College student Zarko Ceranic said he suspected the decorations were put up this early to distract people from other, more pressing, problems. "I think it is way too early – and uneconomical," Ceranic told BIRN.

On social networks, Serbs mocked the government’s decision in various creative ways. One Facebook user scheduled a "New Year’s party" – for October 31 – which almost 7,000 people already showed interest in attending.

"For the first time in history, New Year decorations in Belgrade are being installed in September. Only complete idiots are capable of this," a Twitter user said:

 

"You’re so uninformed, those are not New Year decorations, they’re special lights to guide the MiGs which are arriving in Serbia tomorrow," another Twitter user joked.

He or she was referring to the long-awaited fighter jets that Serbia is supposed to receive from old ally Russia.

Some opposition policians also criticised the city authorities.

"Holes beneath your feet and New Year decorations above your head - that is the image of how this government runs the country," Aleksandar Ivanovic, from the Social Democratic Party, said.

The city government did not respond to criticism. However, Mayor Sinisa Mali previously said that the city was investing more money in street decorations generally because it was expecting a "record number" of tourists during the winter holidays.

A recent arrival to Belgrade, Milena Dragovic, said it was the first time she had ever seen New Year decorations put up this early. In her hometown of Novi Sad, in the north of Serbia, they go up just two weeks ahead of the actual holiday.

"They are trying to people feel the holiday spirit, to make them think they’re better off than they really are and so spend money on needless things," she suggested to BIRN.

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