To go to work on December 25, to have school on New Year’s Eve or to be called to “voluntary labor” as the year drew to a close. All this was possible in an ideologically fervent Cuba, with its false atheism and disdain for festivities, that left us with grey Christmases, celebrated in whispers. The last weeks of 1980, 1983, 1987, so identically boring, lacking in color, run together in my mind. I spent many of those days sitting at a desk, while in other parts of the world people shared them with their families, opened gifts, celebrated in the intimacy of their homes.
It seemed that the Christmas vacations were never honored in Cuban schools, the students only had breaks for patriotic or ideological celebrations. But, little by little, unannounced, and never approved by our peculiar parliament, students themselves began to reclaim these holidays. In the beginning, each classroom would be missing about a third of its students, but slowly the absence virus began to infect everyone. Until finally the number of students missing in the last two weeks of the year left the Ministry of Education no choice but to declare a two-week break in classes. It is these small citizens’ victories, reported by no newspaper, that we all understand as terrain wrested from the false sobriety they try to impose on us from the podium.
Today, my son Teo got up late and he won’t return to school until next year. His classmates haven’t been to high school since Wednesday. Watching him sleep until ten, make plans for the coming days off, helps to make up for my boring childhood Christmases. I can forget all those Christmas Eves I spent without even realizing there was a reason to celebrate.