For all of the obstacles that they have imposed on us in all these years, Cubans have done the impossible to preserve the most beloved family traditions: Christmas Eve.
Every 24th of December, the Cuban family or what remains of it, meets around a table, to carry out the traditional dinner, it doesn’t matter what their wealth, the essential thing is spending the night together, and starting early to participate in all the preparations, because that’s how our grandparents did it, later our parents and now it’s our turn to pass the tradition on to our children.
I remember as a little girl that marvelous day when they gave the youngest a little more freedom, because they were toiling in the preparations of that night, the older folks looked the other way in the face of our mischief.
Another of the images that comes to my mind was the going and coming of neighbors, carrying between two enormous grills, a little pig, recently roasted at the bakery. Others, like us, did it in the house’s yard, digging a hold in the ground and piercing the unhappy pig with a spike, perhaps made with a slice of orange.
One of the things that I liked to participate in the most, and that they allowed me to do, was setting the table. I remember that I loved to make a centerpiece of poinsettias freshly cut from the garden, pity it only lasted a few hours, but they were enough to decorate our table.
The moment of truth arrived, my grandmother, when she convened the family dinner, only said “Everyone Come”, to the table and to the bed, she only called once.
I don’t know nowadays, what I liked more, if it was the pig, with the skin and the tail well toasted, or those sleeping black beans, perhaps the turrones — nougats — the one from egg yolk above all, the sweet dates, the nuts, whose shells were used to make turtles like my mother taught me, or finally, that three colored frozen cake with hard chocolate in the top, that my uncle, in his habitual exasperation tried to cut, hitting it with everything from an ax to a utility knife, which made the table shake and the plates and silverware jump. Anyway, so many pleasant memories, which today we do more simply, it always bring to mind those delicious pictures and the fond memories of faces, almost blurred by time, of those family and dear friends, who always accompanied us and whom we will never forget.
That is why, even though we are already so few, that my children and grandchildren are not with me, that many of our friends are gone, some opposite and others further, again, for the love and respect those traditions that so lovingly they taught me, to make my dinner with what I have, with what I find, but I welcome all, all!
Translated by: BW
December 23 2011