LISBON, Portugal - The streets of downtown Lisbon are usually ablaze with Christmas lights around this time - but this year the city has put on a somber show that matches the somber mood of austerity.
The Yuletide gloom is seen across Europe's crisis-hit southern rim, as Athens and Madrid also dim the Christmas lights in a sign of how anxious countries have become about the future.
In Lisbon, the city council has cut its festivities budget to $200,000 from $1,150,000 last year, leaving main streets short on Christmas spirit. Portugal is in a double-dip recession, and austerity measures being enacted to reduce the country's crippling debt burden are expected to worsen the economic slowdown next year. The jobless rate has climbed to a record 12.9 percent.
Frugality has inspired ingenuity. Artists invited to help Lisbon look more festive have strung up multicolored umbrellas with flashing lights over busy Chile Square. Across town, passersby are being given sparkling lapel pins to provide their own Christmas lighting.
"With more rudimentary and low budgets, we're bringing something different to make people smile," said Catarina Pestana, who designed the umbrella lights.
In Portugal, officials aren't just playing Scrooge with the Christmas decorations: The government is pocketing half of most workers' annual Christmas bonus - roughly equivalent to a month's pay - in a special one-off tax to help settle the country's crippling debts.
In Athens, which has suffered fatal riots against government austerity measures, authorities are mending their ways after the lavish spending of past years.
Municipal authorities say their outlay on Christmas and New Year will be one-tenth of last year's, at $270,000. That's the same as what a previous administration spent on the city's main Christmas tree, which was torched during December 2008 riots.
In struggling Spain, where the jobless rate stands at 21.5 percent, Madrid City Council has also scaled back its seasonal spending, making do with some of last year's decorations along city avenues and using fewer lightbulbs. The total cost of $3.35 million is down 15 percent from last year.
Stores in Madrid are slashing their prices by up to half to entice shoppers.
In Ireland, the Celtic Tiger era of lavish office Christmas parties and generous gifts for clients is out of fashion.