By Miguel Arias Sanchez
HAVANA TIMES – I was recently speaking to a childhood friend of mine and memories of the Christmas holidays came flashing back. I told him that ever since the beginning of the month, people would dream about the Christmas tree, wreaths, Santa Claus, the Three Kings… In a nutshell, this month used to change our lives.
From the 15th onwards, you could pick up on everyone’s joy and the Christmas spirit in the air.
In our case, we were a poor family like most of my neighbors, but people were brimming with solidarity and love at this time of year, and the other side of the family that was better off, would help out so that we could all celebrate the holidays.
Some would put up a small Christmas tree, others a larger tree, but they were always decorated with a lot of excitement. Many people painted their homes and wore new clothes on January 1st.
Families were united, people went to visit each other at their different homes, swapping presents. On the street, stores would hang up loads of lights and you could hear Christmas carols on every corner. At night, you could see people playing with sparklers, Santa Claus costumes, there wasn’t a single place that escaped the Christmas spirit.
Times have changed, life evolves and what was once, is no longer.
Nowadays, these holidays don’t have anything on those old ones we had for me, where everything was a celebration from the birth of baby Jesus up until Three Kings’ Day. That excitement is longer here, for better or worse.
And while Cubans continue to hold onto the tradition, in spite of politically-driven interruptions, it isn’t the same anymore. Many families are no longer together, some live outside the country and they don’t all have money to travel and reunite with their loved ones.
Several generations were born during the time when religious festivities were banned, so they don’t get excited.
Widespread shortages make it hard for us to get a hold of some products we would use now and, if we think about it, there are so many more important things that we need to ensure in order to survive. This has been a weight that has crushed people’s interest and excitement for these holidays.
Whatever it is, we are here thank God, and healthy, which is the most important thing and even though the Christmas spirit isn’t the same, some houses are decorated with Christmas trees, decorations, greeting cards for New Year and I’m sure that many children will get a present or two on January 6th.
This tells us that, even though times have changed, there are some things that are passed down from grandparents to grandchildren, from parents to children. And they each do it their own way, as best they can.