Cuban Holidays

Many holidays commemorate events in Cuban history, such as the Revolution and the Wars of Independence. All offices, factories and stores are closed on these days. In the past, holidays were observed with mass meetings and parades where thousands of people would come together to celebrate.

Perhaps the most important Christian festival for Cubans is Noche Buena (Christmas Eve). Cubans dance, drink and enjoy themselves during this celebration. Semana Santa (Holy Week) is usually celebrated in March or April. Another period of celebration is Epiphany in early January, the celebration of the visit of the Three Wise Men to Jesus. Many Black Cubans celebrate this holiday because according to tradition, one of the Wise Men was African.

In the Santería religion, each saint has a festival day. Followers come together to dance, sing, listen to the beat of the drums, and make offerings to the saint or orisha.

Several cities and towns celebrate Carnaval. Originally, Carnaval was held in early spring, on the days before the beginning of Lent. Lent was a time of fasting and penitence and Carnaval was a time to release energy and enjoy life before this sombre period. The Havana Carnaval is held in February, but in Santiago de Cuba, Carnaval is held in July to commemorate the Revolution. Groups of dancers and musicians called comparsas party in the streets and there are parades with floats. People dance wearing flamboyant costumes and holding huge heads made of papier-mâché.

Date Event
January 1 New Year’s Day and the Anniversary of the Revolution
May 1 International Worker’s Day (Labour Day)
July 26 National Rebellion Day and the Anniversary of The Moncada Attack
October 10 Beginning of the War of Independence