New Year’s Away from Cuba


Spending New Year's away from Cuba

I won’t hide it. I’m stating it immediately: I don’t like New Year’s parties.  I do love to get together with my family (uncles, aunts, cousins, our grandmother and her husband, my brother’s girlfriend of the moment or my uncle’s “friend”).  We play baseball with my horde of cousins who cease being teens, or we put on some music that we all like (which is something verrrrry difficult since we span three or four different generations).

We all laugh together for a while, though avoiding the subject of politics so that we don’t end up like cats and dogs fighting under a full moon.  But all that is something very different from “celebrating” New Year’s.

I won’t mention December 24th, because my generation in Cuba isn’t familiar with that type of celebration (with exceptions, of course).  In any case, though they never taught me about it, and though I know full well the story behind Christmas and Christmas eve (especially after five years of studying theology), I’m not interested in celebrating it.

I generally don’t believe in marking select moments of the past in such a manner and then being forced to act one way or another, and much less if this requires us to “look happy.”  It’s ridiculous to be forced to look happy because a year is ending or beginning, or because someone we didn’t know was born or died.

I believe that happiness should fill us all the time.  If we allow it to enter, it doesn’t matter if it’s the beginning or the end of some time period that’s not same for all the planet’s inhabitants.

But if I was previously bothered by this faking of euphoria, for some time now what has caught my attention is all this craving to buy things at the end of the year.  I won’t even mention the decorations that try to give a happy look to our stores in Havana, dilapidated for the most part.  Now I’m outside of Cuba and the decorations are a similar type of kitsch, but they stand out less in windows full of products.

It’s incredible how they sell, how people chase after objects so ephemeral and so easy to build themselves.  It’s amazing how these are so necessary to “be happy” at this time of the year.

I’m sure that someone will jump out of their seat and try to explain to me that it’s all about “tradition,” something I don’t know about because I grew up in the middle of decisive and special periods (defining features of the revolution in my country).

But, if it’s about “traditions,” wouldn’t it be more fulfilling for people to build those themselves, like in the past?  They could construct their own mangers, make their own Christmas tree decorations and create that whole chain of objects that they’ll wind up tossing in the garbage just after New Year’s begins.

Year End festivities in Venezuela

Yes, it’s evident that I don’t like New Year’s parties, at least western parties; where the mouths of religious leaders are filled with words that are so cliché and abused that few people are able to comprehend their true essence; where political leaders speak of great deeds of the past and those to come; where too many people see this date only as an opportunity to intoxicate their senses even more and try to forget what they believe they are, which of course they hardly ever liked; where others will see as total martyrdom being obligated to get together with their family who perhaps will take advantage of that moment to demand they act like society “needs” them to be.

People are usually more cheerful, sincerely so, at any other moment.  Perhaps that is one of the necessary details: sincerity, spontaneity – exactly what I’ve noticed is most absent recently.  I’ve seen greater happiness in people when their favorite team wins a game, when they see a sunset after several days of rain, when they discover a flower on the plant they sowed a while back, when they recover from an illness, when they celebrate their daughter or son’s first birthday; when they swim in the sea for the first time, or when they pass an exam that will mean a lot to them… The list would be endless.

At this very moment I would be 15 times happier if I were able to be with my family and with my friends, and it wouldn’t matter if it were before or after December 31; what is important is being with them again.

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