THE MOST BEAUTIFUL DAY
by Jorge A. Maspons
Note: I wrote the following article 30 years ago in Spanish, it was the first time I wrote anything for publication. I have changed several things, but it remains basically the same. It circulated in the Cuban communities around the United States. The publication, Periodismo Libre, no longer exists.
"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord..." (Luke 2:10-11)
We are fast approaching that time of the year when we celebrate Christmas, that is, the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Soon most people will be busy setting up the Christmas tree in some corner of the house and buying gifts for their relatives and friends. It is time for joy, happiness and delightful parties. But for some people it is also a sad time, as some can not handle the emotions related to past experiences.
Many of us remember with mixed emotions the good times in the past and the pleasant memories we have from childhood, as well as those family members who departed this world and went home to be with the Lord.
I remember Galiano Street in Havana very well; the beautiful Christmas Season decorations, the large selection of gifts and the multitudes on the sidewalk, with that special kind of spirit we had during this time of Christmas. Our finest stores were richly decorated. "El Encanto," and "La Epoca" always attracted many visitors who came to admire the decorations. These are some of the things I remember from the Cuba that I knew.
When I was little I had the opportunity to travel with my father, and watch as he called on his customers throughout the island. Everywhere we stopped, no matter how small the towns were, you would find the same spirit. Sometimes we arrived in a particular place and our friends immediately moved to slaughter a pig and prepare a typical Cuban meal.
The majority of the Cuban people celebrated the "Noche Buena," (the Good Night) with parties, and Christmas day with beautiful family reunions. We would leave the exchange of gifts for "King's Day" on January the 6th, thus, having in this way, an advantage over those who exchange presents on December 25th. For us, Christmas was less commercialized and more family oriented. We followed the tradition from Spain of "Los Reyes Magos" and children looked for the three Wise Men instead of the man from the North Pole with his large bear. (An interesting side story: Here in New Orleans where I live now, the people celebrate the 12th Night after Christmas, the "Epiphany" as this day marks the beginning of the famous "Mardi Gras" season which ends on the last Tuesday before Lent.) But sadly, most people do not understand the story of the wise men.
The poor children always received toys, charity was a widespread custom among Cubans. I remember that my family visited a nursing home and a children's home during this time, and I could see the abundance of toys and presents everywhere for the kids and the elderly.
In our beloved Cuban land today there are no more large parties, nor any more of those "Noche Buena" reunions. Unless you are a member of the communist party. Little or nothing is left for the common people. Communism, that materialistic system of government, has tried by every means possible to destroy our traditions; until recently, Christmas was not considered a holiday at all. This malignant and godless dictatorship brought Cuba nothing but hate, envy, deceit and discord. Just as in the other nations where this evil philosophy reigns, Cuba has descended into the most miserable physical and spiritual state. This, in contrast to the Christian message of love, charity, friendship, and even freedom.
However, the message of the angel to the shepherds, and the song of the heavenly hosts on that first Christmas morning, form a Spiritual weapon that even communism can not resist. Faith, Hope and Love remain forever. Even if they take our lives, these gifts from God will never be darkened by the Marxist oppressors and we can have the assurance of eternal life. Our enemies live for the present world, which will end some day, while we look forward to our eternal home.
More than two thousand years have passed since the first coming of Christ, and throughout all these years, there have always been elements such as international communism which has attempted to deprive men and women of their individual rights to life, their dignity and freedom. The angel's message is as current today as it was on that glorious morning so long ago. And it also speaks to us today. It tells us that there is hope, that not everything is lost. We have a Savior as powerful in these modern times as in those days of the Roman Empire; a Savior who is waiting, calling with his open arms.
In Cuba, many will remember this day. And no matter how much the enemies of Christ work to prevent it, even when material things are lacking, Christ will be there with His followers. We, those who have arrived in this free land, have a great responsibility. Here we can celebrate Christmas with joy and without fear of persecution for our faith. At least, until the present moment, we have the freedom to worship according to our faith; we can not assume this will always be so.
We are responsible because we have to take this message to the world, we must proclaim to all the nations that there is a force superior to communism or any other "ism". That the Savior has come, that there is hope, that not everything is lost.
May God allow our people to be free soon. I pray that He grants them the freedom they feel in their hearts. I also pray that those who are here, with full freedom, will make the decision to follow the simple but beautiful life the Savior left us.