Christmas without Chestnuts

Irina Echarry
Irina Echarry

My brother was born on December 25, 1967.  It was a big problem celebrating his birthday in revolutionary Cuba since on that date there were always voluntary work days, marches, or simply demonstrations to emphasize the positive change the island was experiencing.

Those who did not attend (for whatever reason) could be labeled. My father attended several meetings to analyze the issue.

Abolishing Christmas in Cuba was a delicate matter. In addition to it being a “remnant of capitalism,” there were no resources in the country to celebrate anything except the triumph of the revolution.

Therefore, my family didn’t throw parties that could cause any confusion with the neighbors. Luckily my father was a very imaginative man and he could make us happy with very little.

Suddenly, after the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1998, Christmas day became a holiday. It seems strange to me to see people who barely have the means to subsist spending so much money on little trees, lights, ornaments, tinsel, and garland. Very strange.

The stores that trade in hard currency are packed with people spending money. They buy costly Christmas ornaments just to be in style. Food and drink that could last for days is squandered in hours, disregarding the fact that months of economic hardship will follow.

I wonder what they are celebrating. Where did all this enthusiasm for partying come from? They would probably think I am bitter, but I think some of these people are just exercising their right to celebrate openly when they please. Others only do it because it is an official holiday and they are following the official line.

My brother is not interested in Christmas; he never longed for chestnuts. He only cares about being with the people he loves the most and to eat and drink with them in peace. Unfortunately, my father is no longer here to participate. Perhaps that’s why I am so sad during this season, in addition to the contrasts.

This is the time of the year when everyone’s opulence or poverty becomes more evident. Far from uniting, this celebration separates people into different social strata.

I cannot forget that up until a few years ago we repeated a phrase that we believed: “we are all equal.”

Any day is great for uniting the family, for celebrating friendship or the birthday of someone dear. The date is not important. This year I hope for sincere unity and peace in all homes, even if there are no chestnuts to share.

One thought on “Christmas without Chestnuts

  • Here in the United States people don’t celebrate christmas for it’s true meaning, the birth of christ. It’s about buying gifts and spending money you don’t have. God forbid you buy the wrong gift.
    Merry Christmas and God bless you and you’re family.

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