Christmas in Cuba

Christmas was banned in Cuba from 1969 until 1998. The then Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, didn't want any religious celebrations. Christmas was made a public holiday again in 1998 in honor of the Pope visiting the country.

During the time it was banned, some people still celebrated Christmas but only in a very quiet way. Now Christmas celebrations are much more widespread.

Christmas Eve is called 'Nochebuena' (which means 'the good night') and it's when families have their main meal and celebration together.

The traditional main dish is roast pork (some families like to roast a whole pig) normally served with fried plantains, rice and vegetables. Dessert is often rice pudding or sweet potato pudding.

More people are now going to a midnight mass church service after eating their Nochebuena meal.

In the town of Remedios there is a very big fiesta and parade on Christmas Eve called 'Las Parrandas'. One story says that in the 1820s the priest in the town thought that people might go to sleep after their meal and not go to midnight mass; so he got some children to make a lot of noise to keep people awake!

Now Las Parrandas in Remedios is a very loud parade and party with different neighbourhoods in the town trying to out do each other with their costumes and music! The festivities start at 10pm when the church bells ring. At midnight there are lots of fireworks and more partying.

Epiphany is also celebrated in Cuba. Before Christmas was banned it was very popular and was when people exchanged presents. Children hope that the Three Kings will bring them presents at Epiphany.

This is still widely celebrated by Cuban communities in places like Miami.