How do you celebrate this day when you have nothing to eat?
"Christmas is cancelled this year in Zimbabwe," Thabiso Nxumalo, 44, told IRIN. His wry remark reflected the almost complete absence of any festive season preparations in the predominately Christian country.
Surviving disease, hunger and the world's highest ever recorded hyperinflation rate has eclipsed any celebration of one of Christianity's most important calendar events.
"This year's Christmas will be recorded as the worst in living memory for Zimbabweans; it will be the worst ever since independence [from Britain in 1980]" said Bulawayo resident Buhlebenkosi Sibanda, 46.
"There is no Christmas to talk of this year - there are no goods in the shops, cash is not available at the banks and people are dying of cholera in their hundreds, and while this is happening President [Robert] Mugabe and MDC [Movement for Democratic Change] leader Morgan Tsvangirai are failing to reach an agreement in forming a government. What they are doing to us is a crime against humanity," she said.
About 5.5 million people require emergency food aid, a cholera outbreak - yet to be contained - has killed more than 1,000 people, and independent economists estimate annual inflation is in the trillions of percent.
A Z$10 billion (US$20) note was issued on 19 December, although the goods that are available are now generally sold in foreign currency.
"The government has cancelled this year's Christmas. How do you celebrate this day when you have nothing to eat? This year's Christmas is for the rich, who can afford to buy from the many foreign currency shops in the country," Nxumalo said.
Amid the socioeconomic malaise, political talks between Mugabe and Tsvangirai are moribund, and if 42 abducted MDC members are not released or charged by 1 January 2009, the talks will be terminated.
A few shops in Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo, have brought out the fairy lights from previous years, which brighten the streets - when the electricity is working - but they elicit memories of the past, rather than invoke celebrations of the present.
"It's a case of Christmas was good back then; by this time we used to be all over the city, doing last minute shopping. But there is nothing this year, and some of us will use the day to reflect on how difficult times are now," Peter Dzvairo, a carpenter, told IRIN.
The baubles, the tinsel and the Christmas trees that signal the start of festive shopping frenzies are as absent as the shoppers, and few people are making the traditional annual journey home to the rural areas.