Beirut seeks Christmas cheer after gloomy year

Near the wreckage of Beirut's port, a charity is bringing Christmas cheer to a city hammered by a devastating explosion, rising coronavirus infections and the worst economic crisis since Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war.

The Solidarity Christmas Village has been offering visitors free entry to watch concerts and pick up drinks and snacks, lifting the mood of families who can't afford seasonal luxuries.

People dressed in giant polar bear costumes and others in Santa Claus outfits offer some festive spirit to a country that's a patchwork of Christian and Muslim sects.

"We want to live. We need to make our children happy, we need them to live because this is life. Even if we are tired and the living situation is tiring, we don't have to expose our children to this. No, I want to make him happy and make him feel the holiday (spirit)."

The Christmas village has been set up in a temporary warehouse near the port, flattened by a huge explosion on August 4 which also ruined a swathe of the capital.

Near the port's shattered entrance, an artist erected a towering Christmas tree decorated not with shiny baubles but with grimy protective clothing and hard hats worn by firefighters who had battled the massive fire at the port.

The blast left tens of thousands homeless in a nation already crushed by a mountain of debt.