Christmas in Cuba

By IRINA ECHARRY

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photo by Caridad

HAVANA TIMES, December 22.- The smell of blood spreads through the outlying barrios of the capital. Water boils in the big pots. There’s music and broth in the air, neighbors invite you to eat crisp pork rinds and those who can are preparing to buy some of the meat of the recently slaughtered pigs.

Raising pigs is prohibited in the city, but people find ways to hide one in their backyards, and as such guarantee the meat that shouldn’t be missing on Christmas Eve and New Year’s. Forget about the rest of the year, these are the days that everyone wants to feel at least the sweet crunch of a good pork rind in their mouths.

Everyone says that Cubans are a joyous people who never miss the opportunity for a party, even if the only thing we have is some bad rum and the reason for the celebration has no real importance in our lives. Maybe this is why many who aren’t even religious were overcome with joy when the ban on celebrating Christmas was lifted. It was good news: another holiday, a good reason to celebrate, to be happy, or believe that you are, or to manufacture the happiness. It didn’t matter that most young people barely knew who was born on that day. It didn’t matter that many elderly people were against the celebration and it didn’t matter that others saw it as hypocritical and senseless.

Those of us who are in favor of peace and understanding among all the planet’s inhabitants are always grateful for good gestures on this date.

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photo by Caridad

Others simply get excited about the colored lights on the Christmas trees they never had in their childhood. They like the idea of coming home and imagining that good times, neighborly and family unity and maybe even a wish or two will come true to the rhythm of the monotonous melodies of the garlands, or by just watching the bright balls and red ribbon decorations.

For some, it’s a time to show off one’s wealth (often this, along with their solitude, is the only thing that makes them feel “above” the others) and they go off to the stores to buy gifts as if it was their last chance.

The elderly revisit with nostalgia their memories of the festive days when roasted pig, cassava with garlic sauce, congri (beans and rice dish), a good salad and a tasty fritter for dessert was never missing, along with the warmth of friends and close family surrounded by colors and garlands.

There are those who, not being accustomed to it, just ignore the celebration. Many generations of Cubans born after 1959 give it little importance. It’s just one more day. You eat, you drink and you celebrate because the year is coming to an end and another one approaches where hope is the protagonist. A hope that things will get better and we can overcome the economic crisis. Hope that our children will progress, that our families will be reunited and that peace will reign.

Fortunately it’s only a date, and we are not obligated to celebrate it. For better or for worse, nobody is obligated, even to go to church or not to go.



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