December has started with the rare spectacle of Christmas trees adorning shops, hotels and other public sites. After several years in which they were erected only in the living rooms of some houses, they have returned and their dusted snow contrasts with all the sun outside. It seems that the ban on putting them in windows, lobbies and cafeterias has expired or that the audacity of Christmas has made us ignore it. We have already lived—several times—through this sprouting that later trips over the edge of a hatchet when someone “up there” signs a circular banning them.
The first time I saw one of those decorated trees, when I was seventeen, the Soviet Union had collapsed and being an atheist was already out of fashion. Stopping in the doorway of a church in Reina Street, I had decided not to get closer to the crèche and the crystal balls that hung from the branches. The stories of what happened to those who had been rejected for believing in religion stopped me at the door. Mouth agape at the size of that fir, I overcame my fear and approached the warm manger.
With the opening of foreign currency stores and the rise of tourism, decorated trees sprouted everywhere and the Habana Libre hotel came to have the largest in the entire city. Parents took their children to walk near the illuminated greenery under the crowning star. But certain stubborn ones—with power—considered each tree as a defeat that had to be reversed. So, they tried to make us return to those boring December landscapes of the seventies and eighties, but a few had already acquired the taste for hanging garlands.
After several years without seeing the blinking of their lights in public places, this end of the year surprises us with the pleasant sprouting of a well-known forest. Under their branches a woman sleeps with her baby who knows nothing of prohibitions, banned trees, or crosses hidden under a shirt.