By Rosa Martinez
HAVANA TIMES – Just a few days ago, every country in the world, except for Saudi Arabia, Argelia, Iran, Tajikitan, North Korea, Somalia, and a few others, were celebrating Christmas, one of the most important holidays in the year on Earth.
Even though this day no longer holds the same meaning for most Cubans, for decades now (because it was banned by the revolutionary Government), this celebration was picked up again after Pope John Paul II’s visit to Cuba in 1998, although it has never resembled celebrations in most Western countries.
Christmas is for singing the praises of baby Jesus’ birth, who came into this world to save mortals, this is the message the angels gave: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” However, in Cuba, where most people are atheists and another large group of people believe in Santeria, Christmas Eve is normally seen as a time for people to be with their family or their dearest friends.
In people’s homes (and not all of them mind you), people try to cook a nice meal, with some happy music (not Church-related), alcohol which is never missing, which has nothing to do with the somewhat symbolic nature of this celebration before the Revolution triumphed, when people respected the sobriety they inherited from the Spanish.
I have read in many places, especially tourism books, that pigs are roasted on the island, people make sweets at home, coming together in street parties, setting off fireworks.
Well, I can’t speak for other provinces, but here in Guantanamo, none of this happens. Here, we could say that some families, a very few, have a family dinner, drink a couple of drinks, and like every Cuban get-together, are merry and dance. But it’s a stretch to say that it’s a great celebration.
For most people here, it’s just like any other day, an excuse to relax at home, share with neighbors, talk peacefully, a time for bringing the family a little bit closer together and maybe for people to wish good things on others for the rest of the year and the upcoming one.
Even though some people put up Christmas trees, and many relatives come from abroad during this time of year to try and celebrate Christmas in the same way they do back in the countries they now live in, it’s very hard to do.
It’s hard because when you don’t believe in something, you just don’t feel it. Secondly, because the Cuban people suffer so many crises throughout the year that they aren’t able to splash out on unnecessary expenses. Thirdly, because shortages make it impossible to give people gifts, not to mention for a Santa Claus to exist. And last of all, people think that they already have enough on their plate to try and put a special dinner together for New Years, to have to do the same just a few days before.