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"How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus?" New York Sun 9/21/1897
"Culture is of fundamental importance for the life of nations and for fostering the most authentic human values" Pope John Paul II, University of Habana, January 23, 1998
The Story of Christmas in Cuba
When Columbus landed in Baracoa in 1492, he brought with him European customs, rituals, and beliefs. The introduction of Roman Catholicism into Cuba by the Spanish transformed Cuba into a Christian nation. Christmas was celebrated in Cuba for over 450 years prior to Christmas being banned by the Revolutionary Government in 1969. Jose Marti exhorted the people of Key West for “Cuba Libre”at San Carlos, Christmas Day, 1891. The first international phone call over telegraph wires was made from Key West, Florida to Habana, Cuba on December 25, 1900. At the request of Pope John Paul II, Cuba allowed Christmas to occur provisionally in 1997 and officially in 1998. Prior to 1969, the people of Cuba celebrated Christmas Eve (December 24th) with a splendid meal accompanied by danzon music, “La Noche Buena”, comprised of a pit-roasted whole pig flavored with mojo, yucca, rice and black beans (congri), plantains, Spanish apple cider (sidra) and wine. Desserts included flan, turrones, nuts and dates. After the meal, family members attended a local Midnight Mass together to celebrate the birth of Jesus by the placement of baby Jesus into an empty manger as life size statues of Mary and Joseph awaited. Christmas Day was spent visiting relatives and friends. New Year's Eve was another time of celebration. At midnight, celebrants would eat 12 grapes to symbolically finish the old year. On January 6th, the "Three Kings" of the Magi presented gifts for the children in celebration of the Epiphany. So, how does one say “Merry Christmas” while in Cuba? "Feliz Navidad"…a cheerful greeting being spoken more openly despite official Cuban government displeasure with Christmas trees, celebrations, decorations or gift exchanges. We hope you consider sharing your personal Christmas with worshippers in Cuba.
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