A Sad Christmas and New Year

Por Safíe M. Gonzalez

HAVANA TIMES – These Christmas holidays will be very sad for my family. At the beginning of the year, my maternal grandfather passed away at 90 years old, falling victim to prostate cancer.

My father suggested putting up the Christmas tree at some point, which we would normally stick up every year. However, the sadness of my grandfather’s absence, plus the bitter aftertaste 2020 has left us, has stopped us from feeling happy at this time of year.

A few nights ago, Christmas came up at the time the family gets together to eat and tell each other about their day. I remembered the wonderful stories my grandfather would tell me and his longing for those celebrations I never experienced firsthand. His face would light up talking about the lights, presents and sweets.

Everybody would get excited, but it’s been many years now that December 25th and the New Year haven’t been such big events.

Especially this year, which I believe will be the worst holidays of my life. I remember when I was a little girl and we used to live in the countryside, that we never had a Christmas with such shortages, even in the Special Period crisis. It was tough times, but now people are disappointed and can’t find a way to at least welcome the new year in properly.

The Cuban tradition is to eat pork, rice and beans, cassava with garlic mojo sauce and salad. However, I think very few will be able to enjoy our typical Christmas dinner this year. People who like to enjoy the meal with beer will find it practically impossible to get a hold of. Unless they find it above retail price or buy it the dollar only markets.

Photo: Wikipedia

I’ve been thinking about my grandfather a lot recently. I picture his smiling face, as he remembered his years as a boy, and his happiness at this time of year.

I can also picture his disappointed face if he were still alive, longing to eat a piece of Jijona turron, which you can’t find even at “spiritual centers”. And saying, over and over again, “I should have taken that job proposal abroad I was offered.”

Read more from Safie M. Gonzalez’s diary here.

3 thoughts on “A Sad Christmas and New Year

  • Stephen,
    As a fellow Canadian who has travelled to Cuba 22 times the past 8 years, you cannot compare the struggles the Cuban’s are facing during 2020 to the struggles we are facing here.
    Unlike Canada, Cuba does not have the services and safety nets (food banks, compensation for the unemployed…etc.) for their starving population.
    What upset me most about your letter, is telling the Cubans to go outside, enjoy the warm weather and sunshine, as we poor spoiled Canadians count the months to when we can return (because we are actually paid a living wage allowing us to travel).
    I do not think you realize how the people are suffering there. At present, we buy and send groceries to 4 families (through a Canadians helping Cubans type of site). They are in tears when they receive these groceries, glad they have something to eat.
    They have very little of what we take for granted (soap, shampoo, toothpaste etc.). We load a debit card for these people with American dollars so they can hopefully purchase these products after waiting in lines for 8 hrs/day, hoping something is available.
    We cannot travel there at present. I urge any Canadian’s to use their vacation funds to help feed and provide for some of their friends on the island. Sunshine and warm weather do not do much for a starving family in Cuba.

  • Saludos,Stephen. Como siempre, gracias por sus palabras y empatía ante la situación que vive nuestro país.
    Es cierto todo lo que dice. Este ha sido un año atípico, y por ende, la Navidad y la culminación del mismo pues no será muy diferente del resto del año. La tristeza por la pérdida de mi abuelo es algo que llevaré siempre conmigo, sin embargo, también es cierto que llevamos meses con carencias extremas y ahora mismo, en espera de grandes cambios generales. Qué pasará? Habrá que esperar. La espera es algo que nos caracteriza, siempre con la esperanza de que ese cambio sea una pequeña luz.
    Mis saludos.

  • So, sorry, Safie for the loss of your maternal grandfather. Death of a family member is a tragic loss at any time of the year but especially during the Christmas season where birth is the operative word in a religious sense and where everyone wishes to be close to family members and cannot be because of untimely circumstances.

    Not to diminish the extreme economic hardships the majority of Cubans are undergoing and your personal loss now with the pandemic and shortage of basic necessities, but even here in bountiful Canada this Christmas will be very, very different for most families.

    The Canadian government, whether federal or provincial, is telling people to limit any Christmas social (family) gatherings to only those people within the family household. No outside family members from outside the nuclear family or nearby neighbors are to gather together. Travel between cities and provinces is publicly discouraged. Stay home is what our Prime Minister has been proclaiming since the beginning of the pandemic outbreak.

    Police have been giving “warnings” to people to restrict gatherings and to abide by quarantine protocols. But people are not listening. The COVID-19 case count is rising dramatically in most of Canada along with deaths and hospitals are reaching capacity. Police are now giving out fines for people who choose not to abide by the law. Some cities like Toronto are in extreme lockdown where many businesses are closed only open for curbside pickup.

    Many Christmas parties, a given in any other year, are being cancelled. Many people are restricted to their homes either working from home or simply not going out in fear of being exposed to the virus. This has lead to many people suffering depression and severe anxiety. In the cold winter month like December no one wants to be restricted in their house for long periods of time as the days are very short and dark. The year 2020 will leave a bitter taste in every citizens mouth whether one lives in Cuba, Canada, Europe or anywhere else.

    Safie writes: “Especially this year, which I believe will be the worst holidays of my life.” For you and for the many others who because of circumstances beyond their control must endure these holidays with deep sadness from not being able to enjoy their family members’ company.

    But, we must not give up hope and count our blessings. In Cuba you have the possibility of getting out doors and enjoying the warm weather under brilliant warm sunshine during the festive season. How many cold Canadians would long for that opportunity in their stark and dark December winter of discontent.

    I wish for you and for your family a happier and more prosperous New Year.

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