Christmas is, as the song goes, one of the most wonderful times of the year.
It is a season that is jam-packed with so many traditions and customs, whether they are nationwide or family-bound, which means that no two Christmases are quite the same as each other.
After, what would be memorable about the holidays if they were all experienced in the same way.
That same rule applies across the world. Because, let us not forget, Christmas is a holiday that is celebrated worldwide.
This means that, across the globe, pretty much every country has its own set of customs and traditions that are observed, that continue to make this holiday different, yet still incredible, in a variety of countries.
And the same goes for the sandy shores of Cuba. In a country that has been historically Catholic, you can be sure that Christmas is a much-loved holiday on this Caribbean island.
And, thanks to its unique geography, culture, and history, there are plenty of things that set a Cuban Christmas apart from every other out there.
What are they? Well, that’s what we’re going to show you here! In this guide, we are going to cover some of the things that make Christmas in Cuba a time to remember!
A Pig Is Big At Christmas
Every country and household has its signature dish at Christmas. Some have turkeys, some have chickens, and others have fish.
Cuban households? Well, what could be better than juicy, succulent pork?
On Christmas Eve or Noche Buena as it is known in Cuba, the time when most Cuban festivities are practiced, a large meal or feast is held for the entire family, where pretty much every living member of the family tree is invited over for one hell of a party.
And, most often, the main meat of choice for these gatherings is juicy and succulent pork.
How this pork is prepared can vary from household to household. Sometimes it is simply a huge plate of seasoned roasted pork, sometimes it is the juicy and tender meat of a leg of pork.
Sometimes, it is even the whole pig itself. Whatever is big enough to feed all the family and friends that are gathered, that is going to be the cut of pork getting put on the table.
Pork is still a staple of many Cuban-descended families and households across the world. And, to be fair, if you have tasted a slice of wonderful roasted pork lovingly prepared by your mother, can you blame them?
The Festival Of Las Parrandas
Who doesn’t love a good festival? They are pretty much the pinnacle of communal get-togethers and full of high spirits.
So, what do you suppose might happen when you combine them with the natural festivities of the holiday season?
Well, in Cuba at least, you’d have Las Parrandas, one of the biggest winter festivals in Central America!
This is a festival that has pretty much everything you could ask for from these two kinds of occasions, from street vendors to amazing firework displays, a side of rumba music playing throughout it (as if this festival wasn’t action and entertainment-packed enough).
There is even a float competition that takes place across Christmas Eve and Day. You can’t exactly get more festivals than that!
Las Parrandas takes place across many parts of Cuba, but for the full experience, you should check out the events that are held in the Cuban cities of Remedios, where it is believed the festival first took place, and Camajuani, another place where massive festivities can be found.
So, if for some reason, you find yourself in Cuba on Christmas Eve or Day and have nothing to do, you know where to go!
A Crèma De Vie On Noche Buena
Of course, not every household and home is going to want to spend time at a packed festival, so it is back to the dinner table we go!
As if the delicious roasted pork wasn’t enough to water your taste buds for a Cuban Christmas, there is the people-pleasing dessert that always follows!
A popular drink that is served in Cuba around this time of year is the Crèma de vie which is made from primarily condensed milk, star anise, egg yolks, and good rum.
This is effectively a Cuban equivalent of Eggnog, and is just as delicious, too!
Although, given that this version of the recipe is technically outdated traditional eggnog, perhaps we should say that it is the counterpart of its older sibling recipe!
Whilst plenty of recipes choose to not cook the egg yolks before they are added to the recipe, there are also some out there that do cook them, so the choice is really up to you when deciding on how to make yours.
And when you add the rum and star anise pieces, this is a perfectly sweet-toothed drink to cheer for during the holiday season.
So, roasted pork, and a sweet drink to top off the evening with. What more can you want from your Christmas meal?
Room At The Table for Everyone
So, if it wasn’t already clear at this point of the list, it is safe to say that family is a big deal for Cubans at Christmastime.
That’s not too surprising. After all, Christmas is a time for coming together for many places across the world.
But that net of family is cast wide in Cuba. It isn’t just your mother, your father, your siblings, and your kids there.
In Cuba, if you are inviting the family around on Noche Buena, you are inviting the whole family around!
Whether it is cousins, second cousins, friends of the family, or friends of cousins, everyone has a seat at this jolly table, even if it is a little cramped to be fair!
Suddenly, the roasting of a whole pig makes a lot more sense when you have 15+ mouths to feed!
If there was ever an appropriate use for the phrase, ‘the more, the merrier, than Noche Buena in Cuba, we have yet to find it!
Gifts For All The Family
Gifts are the things that many kids and members of the family look forward to around the holiday season, and it is no different in Cuba either.
However, in this tropical corner of the Caribbean, that giving and receiving mentality is cranked up to eleven.
Sure, you have Santa Claus, or Santi Clo to give him his proper Cuban name, leaving out presents for kids on Christmas Day, but Noche Buena is also up there with the main day, as family members exchange gifts with one another.
And remember, Noche Buena is the day when everyone is there. That’s a lot of gifts to get and give!
A Warm Christmas Season
Come on, it’s a Christmas under the hot Cuban sun. How could you not love a Christmas Day meal that includes a potential grill-out?
As you can see, while there are certainly a few familiar elements to a good Cuban Christmas, there is also plenty that sets it apart too!