Just before the New Year we (Liz and Andy, the Far And Further-team as we like to call ourselves) arrived in Gibara, a charming little seaside town on the northeast cost of Cuba, and we were invited to New Year Eve's dinner by a Cuban family.
The New Year is celebrated in Cuba for three whole days. According to tradition a whole pig is barbecued on the last day of the year and it is the men who have the honor of carrying out this task.
We arrived around seven pm, and the men of the family welcomed us with flushed cheeks – they had been barbecuing the pig, as well as consuming lots of rum as the custom, for seven hours. There were a lot of people present, four generations of the family.
We brought biscuits, juice and soft drinks for the children and a bottle of rum for our hosts. The tables groaned under foods and everyone really enjoyed eating. For us the crisp pig skin, the best part of the pig as we were told, was however almost too much. After the meal everyone left for the town's "Fish Square", the meeting place where all those who want to dance and have fun gather almost daily.
We asked what time it was and were told that no timepieces were needed, we would soon know. And sure enough, suddenly the church bells started chiming furiously – it was New Year! "Feliz nuevo ano" was heard everywhere and salsa filled the air.
The music was captivating and before we knew it, we were dancing too, and although not known for our mastery of dance steps, kept dancing at the square until the small hours like everyone else. Kisses were changed; the young and the old were friends – hermanos – brothers and sisters. Everything was shared, the music, dancing and rum bottles. The rum was ever sold out everywhere …
The families and their friends celebrated the New Year's Day together. In the streets people wished us a Happy New Year – there were only a handful of travelers in this town and the few ones we saw seemed to be shy of meeting the local people. After the eight o'clock Mass the Fish Square filled with people again. The popular band Eddy-K had come to entertain the townspeople with their very own reggaeton. The women were glittering, eye-catching dresses and the men competed for their attention. We listened to the band with our new friends, dancing in a ring, a bottle of rum in the middle. It was a hilarious evening and there was no brawling, no drunken misbehavior – the guards and the police were patrolling.
On the second of January the townspeople spent time at the squares and at the terraces of the bars. It was a nice and peaceful way of spending a holiday. After the evening Mass the Fish Square was empty, no music. During our five-day stay in Gibara this was the only evening when there was no activity there. We were told that this was due to the fact that the next day was a work day. But at the beach bar the musicians were playing and singing traditional songs and some people were dancing to the melancholy tunes.
Definitely a New Year we will never forget!