By all that's holy.
Saturday morning at the underpass of the metro station at Sofia University, and workers are puffing cigarettes, sipping coffee and, in desultory fashion, putting up a rather splendid Christmas tree.
'Tis the season to be jolly, and there can be no doubt that great lashings of Yuletide spirit are called for, especially in some of the halls of Bulgaria which have scant chance of being decked with holly.
Parliament, for one, where of late there has been an unseemly muddle about meatballs; to wit, opposition MPs who arrived at the members' dining room to find that the Government group had pre-ordered all the kyufteta, and all that was left was Lenten fare. The opposition did not look on this as an opportunity to honour the dietary prescriptions of the Orthodox Christian Church to abstain from meat in Advent. It was just one more way, in their view, that the Government was being beastly to them.
Well, sometimes it is the business of governments to be beastly, though whether this extends to leaving only soup and salads for the opposition is a matter for the electorate to ponder.
Before then, only Finance Minister Simeon Dyankov had been cast in the role of Scrooge, denying folk their Festive Season bonuses, to say nothing of depriving many of his ministerial colleagues of much of their budgets for next year. That is his job; any attempt to transform a finance minister into Father Christmas is likely to end only in one's wish-list letter coming back from the chilly North Pole unopened and marked "Return to Sender". Dyankov's casting as Scrooge does, after all, have its roots in the doings of ghosts of governments past, particularly the three kings of Orient that used to be.
In one of the stranger episodes in Parliament lately, an MP from the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, a party generally perceived as being mainly made up of adherents of Islam, took it on himself to read to the House extracts from the Bible. Which verses, I do not know because the report that I read did not say.
While an MP from another party acidly remarked that it was good to see the MRF MP getting acquainted with the Bible, I believe it probably would be a rather good idea for Bulgaria's politicians to have read to them the entire Bible, Torah, Koran and for that matter any holy book that may be morally instructive; perhaps extracts throughout the year, as the Torah is read through the year in synagogues. Sentimental and sometimes slightly spiritual duffer that I am, I view with fondness the idea of a religious infusion in this season, involving reading something more genuinely divine than shopping catalogues. (Neither here nor there, but it probably also would be a good thing if there was a ritual throughout the year requiring Bulgaria's motorists to read the entire Road Traffic Act.)
Some while past the underpass, I passed a poor man asleep on a park bench, and wondered how his Christmas would be. For those of us who look on Bulgaria as home, this must be the place that charity begins.