Euro supplants Santa

NICOSIA (AP) – Santa Claus is skipping Cyprus on his Christmas run this year. Authorities said yesterday they were dropping Santa at official holiday celebrations as part of a campaign to promote the island nation’s adoption of Europe’s common currency, the euro. Taking his place will be Europa, a character in Greek mythology, seduced by Zeus after he had transformed himself into a bull. Europa bore him three sons, and he named the continent after her out of gratitude. Cyprus is set to start using the euro on January 1. «Why not Europa? Why does it always have to be Santa Claus?» Finance Ministry official Aliki Stylianou Koundourou told The Associated Press. «The euro is not just for grownups and I wanted it to be something special, to have something different for this Christmas specifically for kids to teach them that Europe derives from ancient Greek mythology,» said Koundourou, who led the children’s awareness campaign. «It’s our mythology… We have roots in Europe that go much deeper than our accession to the European Union three years ago.» A foam-suited Europa – riding a winged bull – will make her debut at the Finance Ministry next month to hand out presents to children and pose for photographs. Cyprus has extensively promoted the new currency before abandoning the pound. Athletes, including Cypriot tennis star Marcos Baghdatis, have been lined up for television ads, also due to air next month. But not everyone is happy with the government for tampering with Christmas traditions. «Where did (Europa) come from? You can’t mess with Santa Claus, that would only confuse kids,» said 40-year-old Zena Georgiou, a mother of two daughters aged 3 and 6. «There’s got to be another way to get the euro message across… There’s only one Santa, and he’s the one who brings presents.»