Onassis Foundation Christmas lights receive joyless reaction in Athens

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This years lighting and Christmas decorations for the festive season in Athens were placed in the trust of the Onassis Foundation, as part of the Athens Municipality’s “Adopt Your City” program.

The Onassis Foundation have undertaken the task to illuminate the iconic Vasilissis Sofias Avenue, from the Hilton Hotel to Syntagma Square. Though, their project has seemingly not spread the festive spirit, as it received negative criticisms that prompted the Onassis Foundation to point out that the “project is not yet complete”.

“It is in the planning stage with blue and white colours…As we approach the festivities will move to a more Christmas version. Consciously, we did not choose the traditional adornment proposal. The city is a living organism and we want the existing work to be the same,” said Dimitris Theodoropoulos, Strategy and Culture Advisor at the Onassis Foundation.

In other areas of Athens, such as Kotzia Square, the Municipality of Athens has installed more classic Christmas decorations, though this has also ignited the conversation of what “traditional Christmas” symbols mean in Greek tradition.

In response, Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis said, “Athens is a vibrant city, with many communities, many voices that create, innovate. We do not adopt the logic of homogenisation. A city is not monotheistic…I think it’s nice to have everything, traditional and modern, to express everyone.”

The “Adopt Your City” program was introduced as a method to clean up Athens, and make it a more interactive, inclusive and progressive landscape. The program allows residents, businesses, institutions and any interested parties to “adopt” a street, sidewalk, park, playground or neighbourhood with the intent to make them more friendly, attractive and reflective of Athens’ vast culture.

During the Christmas period, 19 large organisations including the Onassis Foundation, Coca Cola, COSMOTE, AEGEAN, National Bank, Panathinaikos and more, participated in the “Adopt Your City” program.

“The collaboration with the 19 organizations that participate in the decoration of the city proves that the public and the private sector can cooperate, co-create, and be the cornerstones of the changes the city needs,” said Mayor Bakoyannis.

“It is the philosophy and culture our municipality puts in practice. It is the strategy that envisages Athens free from fixations and prejudices. The city that collaborates, creates alliances and moves forward, changes.”

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