Merry Christmas!

Surreal Cuba: Christmas Rousing

Carlos Ernesto Escalona

Cuba. 24 – 25 December 2014

Las Parrandas de Remedios, a Cuban Christmas Eve tradition, dates to 1820. Originally conceived as a noisy celebration to bring dwindling winter congregants back to church, it has evolved into a celebration of music and fireworks, with neighboring communities competing for the most elaborate displays.

Once only found in Remedios, about 200 miles east of Havana, the celebration has since been duplicated in other towns in central Cuba. The celebration and competition is part Mardi Gras, part Fourth of July, part Carnival, as communities work in secrecy to build the most elaborate floats and concoct the most impressive fireworks displays.

Beginning with the peal of a church bell at 10pm on Christmas Eve, Carmelitas from Remedios’ El Carmen neighborhood, symbolized by the rooster, and the Sansaríes from its San Salvador neighborhood, the sparrowhawks, bring the noise. Though deeply competitive, there are no judges or juries.

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