by Hummam Sheikh Ali
DAMASCUS, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- Instead of the baubles, tinsel and toppers, a Christmas tree in the old city of Damascus is festooned with the wishes of people for 2018.
During the seven years since the beginning of the war, the Syrians have clung to their hope in order to endure the difficulties and pass through the tough times of war.
Not far from the frontline east of Damascus, a Christmas tree is set up in an old popular coffee shop in the old Damascus city.
The place is warm and cozy with old stone walls, a wooden chandelier and coffee tables made from tree trunks, with the flickering flame of candles, lending the place a mystical shimmering glow.
People wrote their wishes on colored slits of papers and pinned them on the tree branches.
Pink, yellow, red and blue papers were the new decorations of the tree, and the most prominent wishes were about tough farewells and the "wish you were here" hopes.
"My wish this year is like every year: May God protect you and make this time pass quickly so that we could return and sit down in the same place... I will miss you so much...Your fiancé," one wish read, written on a pink paper.
Another wish read: "I hope to have you back in the new year, to be back again here, to live together and write the next year's wish together... I love you."
Other people also posted wishes of peace to befall Syria in 2018.
"I wish for peace and stability in 2018 for me and Damascus," one paper read.
Another one read: "I pray to God to stop the mortar shelling."
The tree also saw an interaction between people, as some people were supporting each other's wishes.
One man wished a quick return to his home in Aleppo and another person wrote on the same paper: "I hope you can have your peace back home."
Bernar Joma, the founder of the idea and owner of the coffee shop, told Xinhua he came up with the idea and called it the "tree of hope because the least we can do in this war is to hope and this is the only right that cannot be taken away from us."
"All of us have hopes, those outside Syria hope to come back to the country while those inside hope to leave the country... people are wishing for different things and it is a healthy way of expression," he added.
Ghada, a woman in her early 30s, brought a photo of her fiancé and hung it on the tree, writing: "May God bring you back to me safely."
"My fiancé has been a soldier for four years and every year I wished his return to continue our lives together... This war must end one day," she said.
Ghada said she has not seen him for months, as he serves on the western countryside of Aleppo.
"I wish he could come back this Christmas," she said.
Hussam, a regular customer of the coffee shop, told Xinhua that last year he hoped to return to his home in the countryside of Damascus and his wish came true.
"This year I am hoping to see my brother who left the country and resettled in Germany two years ago," he said, wearing a black sweater and sitting in the corner of the coffee shop as he was playing backgammon with his friends.
29-year-old Raghad was pessimistic as she seemed to have given up on hope.
"I think hope is a luxury and it is heart-breaking when it does not come true... I have hoped for a lot of things and they were never answered, so I just stopped it to avoid more disappointment," she said.