Thursday, December 3, 2009

My first Christmas

When I arrived to Canada, my first dream was to have my first real Christmas. I remember myself to be counting day by day how far I was from that magic night of December 2000. Walking though the Mall, seeing the lights, the Christmas decorations, the trees and the giant Saint Claus’ Castle in the center of the Mall. I remember the first flake of snow floating and landing on my hand with its silvery shinny light tingling in my eyes like a blink of an first christmas

When the magic date arrived, unfortunately, a lonely and sad feeling oppressed my heart: I was alone in a strange place with all the usual sounds and voices banished. My family was stranded in the small island and I was alone, far away from the ones that I love.

In that very moment, all the expectations and wishes were gone and to swing away the tears, I looked for my suitcase in the closet and I grabbed the small Cuban flag I brought as a piece of my homeland. I nailed it over the front entrance wall of my apartment and suddenly, my memories came back to my first Christmas tree when I was a child in a small town in Cuba.

It was the year in which the monthly ration book was established, 1962, and the first signals of the real meaning of Socialism were showing off in Cuba’ scenery. Between the young Revolution and the Catholic Church were a virtual war in words and facts, and straightaway the effect was felt in the almost limited signs of Christmas.

In the stores: neither ornaments nor Christmas trees on sale, at the same time that the shortage of salt and basic products made the government to establish the family ration book.

In our houses: a few families dared to install a Christmas tree; at that time was considered a heresy to the Revolution. The fantasy about “The Three Wise Men”, Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary was replaced by the new heroes of the Cuban Revolution, and Christmas was remove from our calendar. In their place, January the First was established as our New Christmas after the newborn Revolution.

I still remember how embarrassed I was later in my life, when I admitted to a friend that I has been baptised and in my house every December we light up the Christmas tree.

What makes it so shameful is the fact that banishing that beautiful legend, you are banishing the fantasy naturally attached to every child in the world. That always brings a question never answered in my lifetime: Is that fantasy a heresy against the strict principles of any Revolution of any kind?

The first Christmas tree that I recall in my mind was my mother’s tree who had survived for years and years, and I had to throw away a very sad December of 1969, when I discovered that the last ornaments were broken and my dear tree was bared without lights and decorations. It also was the year when the last remains of Christmas disappear on the face of Cuba

At that time, when I was 1 year old, my gifts were under the tree and the lights were shining in pure glam and bubbling to their splendour on the golden and blue ornaments. I remember seating there, opening the small coloured boxes with little cars, trains and toys, left all there instead of the little letter that my mother wrote on my behalf to “The Three Wise Men” and I had stuck in one of the branch of the tree.

All those little memories flashed back in December 2000 when I install my Christmas tree in my apartment in Toronto. The big bubbling holiday lights were replaced for modern and sparkling little led lights, the old glass ornaments were now made with plastic, unbreakable, but shinning as always, and the nativity that I always missed in my childhood was under the tree. But the spirit of the two was the same with a small component of sadness.

Under the tree, there were the gifts to my absent family living in Cuba. Though I missed the eyes of my mother watching me from the corner of the room that Christmas morning when I walked into the living room to see my gifts. I missed my father discussing about something over shiny boxes and toys, the good-natured laugh of my grandmother preparing the evening meal and the wide open smile of my grandfather.

For 30 years I didn’t have Christmas. They were replaced by bearded heroes and green uniforms. No fantasy, no children’ stories, no sacred family, no Christmas tree. All these came back too late for me.

I guess, Revolutions are a very serious business to give a chance to a child’ smile.