The trees sprout

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.


  1. Yoani, you have my respect for what are you doing. I am from Romania, and I know how is the life in a country like yours. Romania also was a communist country and I understand very well, that why I’m so impressed by your blog.
    Don’t give up, you bring HOPE to a lot of people around the world and in Cuba.

  2. Yoani–The peace you saw in the Christmas creche was very temporary–the evil King Herod soon sent his soldiers to kill the baby. The holy family had to flee to Egypt to survive. Bad governments bring evil and death to their people–they see enemies in the innocent. Does this seem familiar to you in Cuba? May God bless you all–Merry Christmas to you and your family–keep working for a better future for Cuba.

    Yoani–La paz que veia in la cunita de Navidad fue muy temporario–el mal Rey Herod mando sus soldados para matar el bebe. La familia sagrada tenian que huir a Egipto para vivir. Gobiernos malos llevan maldad y la muerte a la gente–ven enemigos en los innocientes. Esta debia paracer familiar a ti en Cuba. Que Dios bendiga a ustedes–Feliz Navidad a ti y su familia–siga trabajando por una futura mejor por Cuba.

  3. So, you can believe whatever you want.

    Christmas trees are stupid. They have nothing to do with Jesus. Or the Caribbean. They’re part of a pagan cult from Northern Europe!

    They’re meant to give you hope in a guy who hasn’t been seen for 2000 years.

    Don’t you think you should rely on your own wits?

  4. Stringball your argument or excuse for having or not having a tree is so poor
    you sound like those dictators that knows what is permisible
    Christmas tree may look stupid to you just because you can’t apreciete beauty
    you sound bitter and a party pooper
    and still MArry Christmas to you!! HOHOHO

  5. It is obvious that the government in Cuba has felt the international rejection to the arbitrary and totalitarian way in which they governs the Cubans. All these news of “CHANGE”are just pretending to portray the false view of “opening under a new leader” which it is far from that the views directed to the Cubans, these are nothing more than strategies to fool the European Union and have them stop the penalties imposed in the 2003 by giving the false impression to the international community that the “new government” ( Not even it has changed the last name!) it is commited to real democratic changes in the island. True changes are necessary so that real conditions exist in Cuba for blooming of a democracy, and these changes have not been done so far ecept the change from a tyrant to another one. For real democracy to exists, it must provide an opening to the opposition, a serious opening to the pluripartidism, and a true opening to the freedom of expression, they also must dismantle all the repressive apparatus, dismantle the brigades of terror like the infamous ” Brigades of fast Response”; and others paramilitary organizations created throughout these almost 50 years of totalitarian and militarized society.

    True changes imply the blossoming in Cuba of the free enterprises and also the opening to a multi-party government focused in creating the suitable conditions so that the Cubans decide the destiny of their lives, the education of their children. The rejection of Castro’s ideology as the guide of the future of the country and acept that all the ideologies either those preposterous and those truly progressive must be freely expressed. True changes in Cuba imply the reestablishment of the true and unique constitution of the republic of Cuba, The 1940’s constitution, which it is and continuous being most rightly and just conmpare to the idecente pamfleto, enacted during this brutal dictatorship, which they try to call a constitution , a pamflet which legalizes the ulttraje and humillation of Cubans.

    When pluripartidismo florished, that day we can say that changes are approaching. Until now it s said in Cuba ” the same B.S with the same Lastname “!

  6. Yoani les deseo a todos mucha felicidades y tranquilidad – que el 2009 les traiga a todos un cambio de verdadera libertad.

  7. To the beat of Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad”.

    “Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad, Feliz Navidad Prospero Ano Y La LIBERTAD”

    Dios los Bendiga y Proteja!

  8. Dear Ms. Sanchez;

    Merry Christmas, and best wishes for a truly Happy New Year.

    Sincerely and respectfully,


  9. well, i have just finished writing my second email letter to president elect obama, telling him that if he wants to know about cuba. he should read your blog. will he?. i don’t know but my one man campaign has continued. every time i read your blog. i find new reasons why you should be heard. instead of , an elected official in miami. i’ll say it again if we all start to write, perhaps it’ll register. i don’t think anyone of us reads this blog and doesn’t see how different her writing is from most of what we read. i for one would like to keep it that way. so maybe out of selfishness. we should write. btw, i am no spring chicken. i’ve lived in the us 40 yrs and came here as an adolescent. so my generation is not eyes are not full of stars and my crosses are part of my daily journey. i just respect quiet courage when i see it. mho

  10. I like the image of these trees representing something fresh and new but perhaps tidal. In the U.S., it is so easy for us to become quite jaded about the trappings of the holiday season, which tends to get mixed in with the commercial far too easily. Enjo the beauty that they bring to you, and I will approach our winter greenery with new eyes also.

  11. A new reader, from the US. Leon, I will take you up on writing to PElect Obama and his staff to read this wonderfully brave example of the power that freedom of communication can bring… of our world becoming so very much smaller, in some ways, day by day.
    Stringball, I am sorry you don’t like Christmas trees…they certainly were originally representative simply of the pagan midwinter festival that promised more green in the spring. The evergreen trees still do this..and are enjoyed by many who are not Christians or even God-fearing..but follow the Goddess instead. So you can ‘use’ your tree however you wish, and just hope for better to come in the spring. I like that meaning too.

    Paz y bién.

  12. hope for better to come

    Good point. My objection to The Tree is that it is just an inducement to fill the world up with more useless crap. It is sad to see Cuba becoming corrupted with that particular culture.

  13. It’s funny that in Cuba you appreciate religious symbols in public life. In America, there is a constant battle surrounding anything of the sort. Founded on the concept of a wall of separation between church and state, there is a negative connotation associated with religious symbols on public property. This is obviously because, in America, we have a multitude of religions and it is not fair for a government owned by the people to favor a single one. Yet, it seems that in Cuba, because of your history with forced atheism, any religious symbols shown in public are highly valued. I probably sound horribly ignorant, but religions exist currently exist in Cuba? Many? Few?

    The difference in culture between Cuba and America is fascinating.

    However, it is true that in America many religious proponents are constantly battling to merge church and state–something I hope will never happen (I am Jewish, a minority religion, and the merger of church and state would inevitably lead to the suppression of myself and my people).


  14. Yoani,

    Hello from Florida. I just found out about your blog today. I loved your story about the Christmas trees. Remember what Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

    Merry Christmas Yoani!

  15. Hola Yoani,
    I am Canadian and have been visiting Cuba regularly since 1979. I remember that first visit in 1979, adults were learning to read and write, children were finally receiving much needed medical attention. Irrigation was being built in the fields, and tourism was just starting. I know Cuba wants to progress beyond its original social goals and I think it will. Mr. Castro may not always have made the perfect decisions and life must sometimes be difficult for young Cubans who want to see the world, but the Cuba I see now and the Cuba I saw back then are very different. Some good things did come out of your country’s refusal to sell out to America, mainly your independance. Feliz Navidad y buena suerte mi hermana cubana. The future is very bright for you.

  16. Stringball, thanks for posting you provide hours upon hours of laughter for the rest of us. And I want you to know we all appreciate it.

  17. YOANI, the world is on your side ,keep posting and keeping us abreast of how the current government treats its people.. Today Many Cubans throughout the island stood up and spoke up. Libertad is worth fighting for.,so keep your gloves on. God Bless you Yoani and your loved ones. Have a very Merry Christmas. Bizzz

  18. I know about christsmas because my grandmother. She had old cards, I guess, she had before Castro and I always wished that we had christsmas. Growing up with three toys a year was not fun. I think that every kid should grow up with christsmas, is just fun for the kids and memorable for the beleivers. Nothing wrong to have the freedown to beleive in what we want. After all God gave us that right!
    I am glad that in Cuba the kids can start to learn the true meaning of christsmas and if their parents shoose not to take it serious and teach them about Santa Claus instead, then so be it. Merry Christsmas for all Cuba, I wish that next year things will start to change for the good.
    I think we learn from our mistakes and countries do too. Next time in history, we are allow to elect our president, we know better than to make him feel like God. He just may think that he is. We want him to work with us instead of demanding us. (Yoani Sanchez words) Merry Christsmas to ya ‘all !

  19. Stringball do us all a favor a walk off a bridge but make sure you have a chain and iron ball tied to your feet as well. Oh and by the way HAVE A MERRY CHRISTMAS YOU OLE FUSTRATED GRINCH!!!! QUE EN NIÑOS JESUS TRAIGA ESTE AÑO LA LIBERTAD A CUBA!!!

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