In Argentina, as in most countries in the world, the people have had to watch their spending on Christmas presents this year.
In Argentina, as in most countries in the world, the people have had to watch their spending on Christmas presents this year. Most Argentines agree that their country is going through the most agonising phase of its history and it is beset with serious economic and political problems.
The Argentinian peso was devalued earlier this year by fifty per cent and a ceiling placed on wage increases. The people are faced with continually spiralling costs and inflation is expected to average 300 per cent over this year.
But Christmas celebrations continue. The rich families are still able to buy their presents at large department stores but the poorer families turn to the street markets.
Christmas is one of the few times during the year for a major celebration. And one of the highlights, for both rich and poor is the appearance of Father Christmas or Santa Claus.
This year he rode through the streets of Buenos Aires on a fire engine, accompanied by a full motor cycle escort, complete with wailing sirens.
The emphasis on Christmas in Argentina is relatively new. Previously the major religious feast was the day of the kings, or Magi, celebrated on 6 January. But Santa Claus and ringing tills seems to have taken over.
Thousand turned out for the Christmas parade and economic problems were forgotten -- at least for a brief time.
SYNOPSIS: Christmas is a lean time for some people in Argentina this year. Argentina has been hit by extraordinary inflation and spiralling prices. But Christmas is now a traditional celebration and so, for a short time, economic worries are forgotten. The main festivities used to take place on the sixth of January, the day of kings. But the commercialism of Christmas has now taken over. Richer families can still patronise department stores for presents.
But for poorer families, struggling to keep ahead of inflation, street markets offer a better deal for Christmas presents. They choose their goods carefully in the happy, holiday-atmosphere of roadside stalls.
And, of course, there's always Father Christmas. His annual visit brightens the day for children and adults alike. This year he arrived in Buenos Aires in a helicopter, sweltering in the summer heat.
After his arrival he walked through the crowd, greeting the children. He was then carried through the city streets on board a fire engine, complete with an escort of motorcycles with wailing sirens.