Thursday, December 25, 2003

It's a relatively quiet Christmas Eve in Baghdad, apart from an RPG (or something) that narrowly missed or slightly damaged the Sheraton Hotel, next to the Palestine.

A store in Karada called Golden Toys has a fake tree, Christmas ornaments and a Santa in the window. But the owner was inundated with last minute shoppers and too busy to talk. Customers eyed radio-controlled toy cars, electronic keyboards and Barbie doll lookalikes named Julia, Susan and Inul.

Across the street at Flowers Supermarket, people stood four deep at the cashier and said, unsurprisingly, that they viewed Christmas through the lens of a postwar lack of security.

"Before we used to have our mass from 10 pm to midnight because there were no security issues," said Sister Elham Hanna, 30, of the Mary Immaculate Congregation, as she stood in the styling gel and moisturizer aisle. "Now we have to make mass at 4 p.m. The war, the occupation, Saddam's capture, these things don't make Christmas any different this year, except for the timing of mass."

Meanwhile, my colleagues David Gilkey and Chip Somodevilla (Detroit Free Press photographers) describe their run-ins with the US military in an article in The Nation.