Colourful, chaotic Cuba is a country rich in heritage, culture and traditions. The 1959 Cuban Revolution stopped the clocks and turned everything topsy turvy – and as a result, many of the country’s traditions have survived. Looking to learn more? Here are seven interesting and unique traditions in Cuba.
Unique traditions in Cuba
1. It’s all about Christmas Eve
Sure, Christmas is a pretty big deal but in Cuba, it’s actually Christmas Eve that gets all the attention. Noche Buena, as it’s known in Cuba, involves a glorious traditional meal featuring a whole suckling pig, fried plantains, rice and vegetables. Families get together, the neighbours join in – you might even invite some of your co-workers too.
In Remedios town, there’s even a fiesta and parade on Christmas Eve called Las Parrandas. Legend has it that in the 19th century, one priest wanted to stop people taking a nap after their big meal and missing midnight mass. He got the children of the town to make a load of noise to keep them awake.
From 1969 to 1998, Christmas was actually officially banned by the government in a period known as Las navidades silenciadas or “The Silent Christmases.” Since then, the festivities have been taken very seriously
2. You can make good money as a bride
If you attend a wedding in Cuba, you might notice all the male guests who dance with the bride reaching for their pockets and grabbing their wallets. It’s a tradition to pin money on the bride’s dress as she dances. This helpful tradition is meant to help the newlyweds cover the cost of their honeymoon.
3. New Year’s Eve is for purifying
There are a few different New Year’s Eve traditions in Cuba, and a few are quite a bit quirkier than the norm. First up, if you’re visiting on NYE you’ll want to watch where you tread. It’s a tradition to throw a bucket of dirty water out of your house to chuck out all of those bad omens you’ve been building up. If you want to make a few wishes, avoid the candles and get hold of some grapes. One popular tradition involves eating 12 grapes at midnight to represents the 12 months of the calendar year. You get one wish per grape.
Another symbolic way to bid the year goodbye is by burning things. It’s often a neighbourhood effort and you’ll usually find a Mu’econ, doll or puppet, on the bonfire.
4. There are some serious superstitions
They’re quite a superstitious bunch in Cuba. For instance, you should never bring home seashells since they’ll definitely bring you bad luck. Don’t leave your purse on the floor – that’s a quick way to become poor. And don’t even think about going out in the evening with wet hair. But if your palm itches, that’s all good news – it means your money problems are over.
They love to party in Cuba. If you’re lucky enough to be in Cuba in summer, you might even get to enjoy the biggest public celebration of the year – Carnaval of Santiago de Cuba. It dates back to the 17th century.
6. Naming the baby
In Cuba, anything goes. Experimentation is encouraged. Names like Maria and Miguel aren’t very common anymore. Instead, parents will use their imagination, often cobbling together parts of the parents or relatives names to create a totally new one. Or, they might give them their own name – backwards. In the 1970s, the letter Y – which is rarely used in Spanish – became popular in a bid to make names more exotic, which basically led to a whole generation not quite sure how to pronounce their name.
Cigars have a long history in Cuba. In most countries, the tobacco will be sourced from a few different locations, but a traditional Cuban cigar must be made with tobacco sourced in Cuba. While machine-made cigars are available for a cheap price, hand-rolled cigars by Torcedors are the most popular. The tradition dates back over 200 years. Each brand also uses a uniquely designed band to set them apart from the competition.