Sunday, December 13, 2009

The end of Christmas

It was 1969, and the next sugar cane harvest was promised to be the biggest in Cuba’s history, but it wasn’t. Instead, the 10 year old Revolution showed the true colors of its leaders: making unthinkable promises, taking adventurous and risky moves in our economy, showing that our society was move more at the brink of their whims rather than with reasonable plans. The end of the decade brought us also the end of Christmas.The end of Christmas

Since the Revolution took over in 1959, everything changed in Cuba, its leaders took measures to reshape according to their ideology every single detail in our society. The opposition’s parties disappeared, the traditional celebratory May 20th was banished by obvious reasons (it is not easy for a tyranny to remember a republican celebration, which means democracy) and all the republican structures and organizations were swept away. Now, it was time for Christmas, and the logical justification was the sugar cane harvest of 1970 decreed by the revolutionary government.

In our country, we didn’t have the Anglo-Saxon celebration; instead we have the Spanish tradition about the “Three Wise Men”. It means that we celebrate the day the “Three Wise Men” visited Baby Jesus bringing him presents. So parents gave presents to their children as people do here on Christmas Day. The day before (January 5th) is when they supposed to leave presents in houses during the night and there were big parades all over the country. Those parades were banished after 1959, but the celebration was hold until 1969, were our Commander in Chief swept Christmas from our calendar.

With it, January 6th (the Three Wise Men’s Day) was changed to the 3rd Sunday of June to celebrate the Pioneer Organization of Cuba and give that day a more political meaning according to the new ideas. Christmas Day was banished as a free holiday and any reference to Christmas in stores and public places were replaced with signs and boards commemorating the anniversary of the Revolution, January 1st. The authorities even tried to substitute the spirit of “New Year Eve” with the celebratory spirit of the New Revolution in a subliminal way. Since then, the language in our TV and media focused to emphasize that date as the date that the revolution came to power rather than the more intimate and family oriented meanings.

A few years ago, the Embassy of Spain tried to mark those old times with a small parade with “The Three Wise Men” in Havana. The authorities weren’t shy to condemn and even threaten the diplomats in Cuba. It brought the fury of the tyrant. But it showed that our society still have memories and those memories are alive in our children.

Christmas Day came back to Cuba with the visit of the Pope John Paul II, in 1998. We are still waiting for our Three Wise Men’s Day. Instead of, and sadly, we had seen the spread of Saint Claus and the Anglo-Saxon traditions in a country where those celebrations are completely foreign customs.

Today, the government reluctantly sells a few Christmas items in stores, always in CUC (Cuban Convertible Currency), and in a few places you can see some public Christmas trees. But we are still missing the national celebratory spirit. It is sad that even in the Red Square in Moscow, close to the Kremlin where for the first time a Communist Revolution came to power, today is standing a huge Christmas tree. Where is ours?

For long time we keep Christmas in our hearts. It means more than a religious celebration. It touches our human sensibility and the little child we still have in our soul. It means hope and happiness and keep alive family ties which is one of the most important reasons of any society

Why the Cuban authorities still are reluctant to let our people free to celebrate Christmas?

Is it because it means hope?