How Do People In Cuba Celebrate Easter?

While Easter is celebrated in Cuba and there are a few public processions throughout the week of Easter, Cuba isn’t known for its elaborate Easter celebrations unlike other Latin American countries.

This is because from the 1960s onwards, the Christian Church was banned in Cuba, making it near impossible to celebrate Easter. Fortunately, this is no longer the case.

How Do People In Cuba Celebrate Easter

Still, that doesn’t mean that Cubans don’t know how to celebrate Easter in style! Especially now that celebrating Easter is actually allowed. 

Below we’ll take a look at everything you need to know about Easter in Cuba, from the processions, to the religious services, and the food and customs! 

What Is The Main Religion Of Cuba?

Christianity and Roman Catholicism in particular is the dominant religion of Cuba, but over the years Catholicism in Cuba has undergone a huge transformation and some areas of Cuba have become more secular instead.

The church was effectively banned in Cuba for decades, but now nearly half of the population identify as Christian, and therefore Easter has grown in significance.

What Is The Cuban Name For Easter?

Festivals have always taken place in the spring and Easter time in Cuba, despite observing Easter being a relatively recent thing in the country.

In April the country celebrates Carnaval, like the rest of Latin America.

But in 2012, Pope Benedict XVI visited Cuba and declared Good Friday a national holiday once more. Celebrating Good Friday had previously been discontinued in Cuba in the 1960s.

Cuban Easter Processions

Easter processions normally take place in Trinidad during Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

However, the most significant and anticipated event is the Way of the Cross procession that is held every Good Friday.

The Way of The Cross is a very somber event that starts at the Iglesia Parroquial de la Santisima at around 7pm.

The priests and participants will carry a Virgin Mary statue through Trinidad’s historical centre. Hundreds of visitors and residents to the area will follow behind, carrying candles.

Visitors flock to Camaguey over the Easter period too, and this is where the Procession of the Holy Sepulcher from the Plaza de la Merced to the Iglesia de la Soledad takes place.

You can find Camaguey on the eastern side of Cuba, and is a stunning UNESCO World Heritage destination that is known for its breathtaking architecture and the curious layout of its streets.

It is said that the city was designed this way to confuse pirates who came to the shore hundreds of years ago!

The relic that is carried during the procession has roots in the 18th century, and is said to be cast with 25,000 pesos in solid silver coins and is one of the most valuable religious artifacts in Cuba.

If you’re visiting Santiago de Cuba during Easter, we also recommend visiting El Cobre, which is one of the most significant pilgrimage sites in Cuba.

Cuban Easter Mass

Cuban churches are now able to conduct Mass services freely all year round, both at Christmastime and Easter. Mass services are usually held at night and are almost always in Spanish.

If you are interested in visiting a beautiful Cuban church it’s best to head into the more rural towns and villages, as there are very few around the resorts.

How Do People In Cuba Celebrate Easter (1)

What Meals Do People Eat In Cuba During Easter?

A lot of Catholics in Cuba are rather relaxed around the rules in the lead-up to Easter, but some will adhere faithfully to the rule that states meat should be avoided during Lent.

However, one traditional meat dish that is served at Easter time but might be hard for tourists to find in a restaurant or a private paladar, is Bacalao à la Vizcaíno.

This is a salt fish dish with Spanish origins, and is enjoyed most Fridays in Catholic homes in Cuba.

What Is The Weather Like In Cuba During Easter?

It is recommended to visit Cuba between November and April. Since Easter is often celebrated in March or April, Easter is an excellent time to be in Cuba. 

The days are warm without being too hot, and will have none of the oppressive humidity that is present during the summer. There is also less rainfall at this time of year when compared to winter.

Three Things To Keep In Mind When Celebrating Easter In Cuba

Avoid Make-Up

While most people would like to attend church looking their best and wearing make-up, it’s best to avoid wearing make-up when attending mass in Cuba.

This doesn’t mean you can’t dress up for Mass, and there is no rule against wearing make-up during Easter of course, but as Mass involves having black ash smeared on your forehead, it’s best to avoid make up as the ash can fall into your eye, irritating your eye and ruining your make-up. 

Collect Palm Fronds

Fallen palm fronds are a common sight on the streets of Cuba, but they take on a whole new significance during Easter.

Of course, a big part of Easter is Palm Sunday! And palm fronds are woven during Easter in Cuba, normally into the shapes of crosses.

You may see cross-shaped palms hanging from the rearview mirror of cars, and families will spend time over Easter weaving palm fronds to display in their homes.

Pork Generally Isn’t Eaten

A lot of holidays or significant events are celebrated in Cuba with the eating of lechón asado, but Easter is the exception.

Again, there isn’t an out-and-out rule that states you can’t eat pork during Easter, but as strict Catholics will avoid eating meat during Lent, this may be why pork is avoided during this time.

Instead you’ll find that many families will enjoy foods like spinach dip, chicken salad and turkey during Easter celebrations, as well as the famous salt fish dish Bacalao à la Vizcaíno.

Final Thoughts

While Easter in Cuba isn’t accompanied by the spectacle found in other countries there is a good reason for this.

After all, the church was suppressed for decades in Cuba, and only reinstated as a national holiday in 2012, following a papal visit.

Still, there are many opportunities to take religious pilgrimages and witness Easter processions during this time of year in Cuba.

There is also plenty of traditional food to eat! If you would like to experience how Cubans celebrate Easter, then March and April – when Easter is commonly celebrated – is an excellent time to visit, as the weather will most likely be pleasant. 

Jim Stanton
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