While winter holidays are cozy, chilly, relaxing times for many, Christmas traditions with Cubans is anything but a silent night. Many families will go out of town to their home countries to visit family or have the whole family come to see them. Here are some traditions we celebrate in my Cuban family in South Florida.
Clean, Clean, and Clean Again
You would think that Cuban moms and abuelas think we live in filth. If it is your turn to host this year, beware of the cleaning duties. You will have to clean things you have never thought of cleaning all throughout December. You may have to clean it twice. Bathroom essentials such as toothbrushes and topical medicines are not allowed to be seen. It must be good enough for the Three Kings and Santa. Otherwise, they won’t bring gifts.
Navigating Nativity Scenes
Most Hispanics identify as Christian. Cubans are predominantly Catholic, and we love our nativity sets. The bigger the better. Every year my parents must decide what room to flip around to accommodate the whole nativity scene, shepherds and all. There also might be a Baby Jesus in a manger somewhere special in the house. It is usually covered during Advent, the liturgical season before Christmas, to show that Christ has not come yet. In my house, my mom bought a bunch of straw from a craft store and had us put it in the manger whenever we did a good deed.
As multiple Christmas celebrations fill up the calendar, sometimes it feels more like Hanukah. With all the extended family that Cubans have, it is literally a fire hazard to put everyone together. You must separate everyone into their different subsets. Each of the four grandparents may have a party for that side of the family. And if you want to see any friends during the Christmas season, plan way ahead because the calendar fills up quickly. Oh, and don’t forget about St. Nicholas Day or Three Kings Day!