Santa Claus is used to timezone changes, but this is going to throw him for an equatorial loop: Venezuela's president has just moved Christmas to November. One the first day of the month, President Nicolás Maduro announced an early beginning to the holiday period. The reason for the change? To make Venezuelans happier.
"Today, on this first day of November, we decided to declare the arrival of Christmas, because we want happiness for all people," Maduro said, whose weekend plans included lighting up the Christmas lights at his palace in Miraflores to mark the "Early Christmas."
Granted, since Maduro's come to power, Venezuelans don't have a whole lot to be happy about: a sunk economy with inflation at 45 percent — alongside toilet paper, food, and electrical shortages — have plagued the country in the six months since former leader Hugo Chavez's death and Maduro's contested election victory. Even his newly created position of Deputy Minister of Supreme Happiness (really, that's a thing) couldn't solve those ills.
"Early Christmas is the best vaccine for whoever wants to invent, whoever wants to invent rioting and violence," Maduro said. Naturally, who's going to worry about protesting a government when they have Christmas shopping they can't afford to do?
That said, with the move-up of the Christmas season, workers will receive the first two-thirds of their annual bonuses on Nov. 10-11, with the last bonuses paid out Dec. 1 — one week before municipal elections. Timing is everything.
"Moving Christmas is non-traditional, but early bonuses doesn't sound like such a bad thing in such a terrible economy," Venezuelan expat Luis Tovar told Bustle. "My extended family lives in the slums of Los Teques, Miranda, Venezuela, [and] although it's odd, festivities and more money is just what's needed after such a rocky year in Venezuela."
However, (early) money is not necessarily the key to happiness for Venezuela's people, who will continue to face deeply-rooted economic problems that a cash bonus can't solve.
"On the other hand, Maduro's decisions seem even more impulsive and unstable than when Chavez was alive as president, so [many Venezuelans] are not happy with him at all," Tovar said. "This move is desperate."