A Merry Cuban Christmas

three cars in Havana on Christmas day

Christmas is a beautiful time of year, a chance for family and friends to spend time together, and eventually, grow tired of seeing each other. One of, if not the most prominent Christian holidays, Christmas has spawned some unlikely traditions across the globe. With the Krampus in Austria (a Christmas demon who punishes naughty children), Germany’s Christmas pickle and the ‘pooping log’ in Spain. So, with the big day just around the corner, we saw it fitting to recognise how the locals of Cuba celebrate the holiday season, thankfully, there aren’t any ‘pooping’ traditions.

Christmas Is Cancelled!

Before we get into the traditions of today, we want to take a look back into the recent history of Christmas in Cuba. For years, the annual holiday was celebrated as a regular event, as it is in many other countries, that is until the revolution. When Fidel Castro rose to power and a communist government was established, Christmas became an outdated tradition and unnecessary as the country had embraced atheism; which is why it was removed from the official list of holidays in 1969. It was still celebrated, but not in a major way.

This ‘cancellation’ saw festive decorations and Christmas trees disappear from many public places, and it remained this way for nearly 30 years. This is, until Pope John Paul II visited the country, making him the first pontiff to do so, and therefore Christmas was re-established as an annual holiday in his honour. Unlike many other countries, Christmas in Cuba remains un-commercialised and focuses on home traditions such as spending time with family and friends, or visiting the church; not spending lots of money.

Before the revolution and eventual ‘cancellation’ of the festive holiday, Christmas was typically celebrated with a two-week long festive period. Characterised with large feasts for families, and sometimes whole neighbourhoods gathering to enjoy the holiday spirit. Also popular during this period would be boisterous Latin style tunes typically referred to as Danzon Music. The Christmas period would extend to 6th January on which children would be presented with gifts to represent the three gifts of Magi, also known as the three wise men.

The Christmas Parade

Christmas has to start somewhere, so why not with a parade? Christmas parades are hugely popular throughout Latin America and Cuba is no exception, with people putting their heart and soul into the festivities. Particularly in the town of Remedios, the parade locally known as Parrandas de Remedios sees people from the various neighbourhoods dress up in their own distinctive style and competing with other districts to make the most noise and be the most ‘festive’. After the parade, Midnight Mass is usually attended by all and is becoming a rising tradition throughout Cuba.

The Christmas Dinner

Although there are certain similarities in the festivities to western culture, these don’t extend to the dinner table. Unfortunately, food rationing is still in place in Cuba which forces families to start accumulating food for the big day weeks in advance.

For more affluent families, the Christmas dinner will consist of an entire roasted pig on a spit, with a delicious marinade of garlic and citrus juices. This is certainly something that we can bring back to the UK and look to implement as it tastes amazing!

We think everyone should experience a tropical Christmas at least once in their lives, however, if this year isn’t that year, then you can keep the winter blues at bay with one of our authentic Cuban cigars. Let us know where you’ll be celebrating Christmas this year and which cigars you’ll be taking with you on Facebook and Twitter!

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