Christmas 2023 in Cuba: the oven is not for little trees

Christmas 2023 in Cuba: the oven is not for little trees

HAVANA, December 24. Like so many other 2023 celebrations in Cuba, Christmas is suffering the rigors of the crisis: fewer trees set up in businesses,hotel facilities and houses; fewer offers on artificial pine trees, lights and garlands in physical stores and sales groups on social networks and, above all, even more stratospheric prices than the previous year.

Christmas decorations seem to be within reach of very few pockets this December.

There was a time, before Pope John Paul II returned the jubilee for the birth of Jesus to the Cuban calendar, when little trees were not in fashion on the island, heir for decades of a dialectical materialism that only those who wrote the books believed. manuals.

The taste for the festivity did not disappear due to decrees but rather re-emerged with more force as soon as the government admitted the obvious: that popular religiosity is an intrinsic characteristic of the Cubans.

Although quite a few people decorate plants in their gardens, in the absence of pines and fir trees, the most common on the island is artificial bushes that are usually decorated with colored garlands, balls, canes, angels, stars and a long etcetera of sparkling details, always topped with fixed or flashing lights.

The reenactment of the birth, with its three Wise Men and its shepherds, is already a higher level of perfectionism that assumes a proven family tradition or above-average purchasing power.

Around this same time in 2022, Havana residents were surprised to see the installation of a giant pine tree on Galiano Street, with its lights and the subsequent spectacle it represented for a city that, until very recently, classified such practices as “ideological diversionism.”

Around this same time in the capital, the little lights were dazzling, while the “green areas”, and even the not-so-green ones, lived between blackouts.

This year, however, the so-called Christmas spirit is not as evident in Cuba as on previous occasions, not only because the number of spaces decorated for the date has significantly decreased, but because there is hardly any talk about the celebration and very few homes They will be able to count on a dinner worthy of the festivity.

Shut down by the government itself, stores that operate in national currency do not display more than three or four items in their windows, none suitable for Christmas; Freely Convertible Currency businesses have the pine trees and their respective decorations at incredible prices, especially if the MLC exchange rates in the informal market are taken into account, and private businesses offer gadgets so expensive that they seem to have been imported in Santa Claus’s sleighs.

Cubans who live “from day to day”, of which there are more and more, have to resign themselves to seeing the little trees in the shop windows, in the hotels, or from the neighbor who could afford it or who keeps it and takes it out year after year.

More than 2,000 pesos for a garland, 10 MLC for a set of red stockings with reindeer and 8,000 pesos for a weak tree barely 1 meter high are figures that very few are willing to spend in times when a package of chicken costs half of any salary.

Faced with the dilemma of feeding the body or the spirit, Cubans are clear: a plate of congrí, pork steak and slices of tomato is a much more powerful sign of “status” than an illuminated tree.