7 popular traditions and celebrations in Cuba
July 22, 2019
Local traditions and celebrations in Cuba are respected and enjoyed by tourists. If you are traveling to this country and want to know more about them in BandBcuba, Bed and Breakfast in Cuba, we will give you a tour of the most important ones. Their music, food and beliefs reflect the European, African and Caribbean cultural mix that makes this island special.
Cuban Food, Music and Traditions
The Cuban celebrations are full of Caribbean flow. Music, dances and colours which are typical of this land. They can be divided into two major groups: the official ones (linked to the dates of the revolution and their heroes) and the national ones comprising festivals, parrandas, carnivals and dances. These have cultural and religious influences from Catholicism and Santeria, both popular religions in Cuba.
Cuban rhythms like the timba, rumba, drum yuka, trova, jazz, mambo and others are part of the local culture. Other traditions are linked to the history and culture of the regions and to their gastronomy. In all, there is a high local participation, since these days are holidays for workers.
Areas such as Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos, Havana, Guantanamo and Pinar del Rio have their own local festivals open to locals and tourists. If you want to enjoy them you have to plan your travel calendar according to your interests. For example, if you want to attend the carnival you must arrive in late June or early July when the first parades begin in Camagüey, Santiago de Cuba and Havana. Also taking place in this month are the famous parrandas and festivals of Caribbean music.
There are also traditions linked to the Cuban lifestyle. Such as baseball matches and playoffs, domino tournaments, community parades and more that are held throughout the year. The months when there are most Cuban celebrations are January, June, July and December.
7 popular traditions and celebrations in Cuba to know
Among all the celebrations in Cuba we could highlight 7 of them. These are ideal for those who seek to know more about the culture of this country and have fun.
1- Fire Festival in Santiago de Cuba (early July)
In early July one of the most anticipated festivities by locals and tourists begins: the Caribbean festival, better known as “La fiesta del fuego”. This is a tradition that began in 1981 to pay tribute to the music, food, dances and traditions of this Caribbean town.
The party lasts about 8 days and is celebrated in Santiago de Cuba, known for being cultural capital on the island. It is characterized by dance presentations, fireworks shows, theatrical performances, local crafts, workshops of poetry and acting, cinema series and much more. It is one of the most world famous celebrations in Cuba.
If you attend,y ou will not only have contact with traditions of Cuba… but also with others Caribbean countries. Like Brazil, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Curacao Island and others.
The locals start planning this event since the beginning of January and have been the hosting this for more than 30 years.
2- Carnivals in Cuban provinces (late June and throughout July)
During these dates, Cuban carnivals are held in regions such as Havana, Santiago de Cuba, Pinar del Rio, Las Tunas, Holguin, Matanzas and Villa Clara. The characteristics are similar between regions:
- Parade with floats, accompanied by typical music such as t he conga santiaguera (typical rhythm of comparsa) with drums.
- Street food offering
- Typical Cuban meals
- Fancy dress parades
- Live music.
There is no set date for the celebration of these carnivals. They usually begin at the end of June in areas like Camagüey. The Havana Malecon is the location chosen to celebrate in the capital. You will find open air stages along the Malecon with musicians playing
During the day there are children’s activities and with the schools, the kids go out in typical Caribbean costumes and perform theatrical shows. At night there are more shows, live music and parades with floats and lights.
3- Parranda of the remedies in Villa Clara (16 to 26 December)
This celebration is one of the most popular and attractive in Cuba. The best parts are the lights, the dances, the colourful costumes typical of the regions and traditional Caribbean music. It is celebrated in the province of Villa Clara, in San Juan de los Remedios. It began in 1820 as a religious tradition and today it is a mixture between the religious and folkloric traditions.
There are numerous traditions linked to the parranda of remedios, among them is the interesting competition between local neighbourhoods like San Salvador and El Carmen. Both compete to show case the best cars and musical shows.
4- Cubadisco Festival (mid-May)
This international fair brings together singers, composers and artists. It has awards and celebrations. Live music by different Caribbean music artists is what makes this event so special. It is usually celebrated from 14 May.
The exhibitions, concerts and awards gathers locals and foreigners together to enjoy the event. Cubadisco is like the Grammys music awards for Cuban musicians. Cuban new talent is show cased, artists meets with collectors and music lovers. It also brings together recording companies, experts and artisans of musical instruments.
5- Fiesta of the Red and Blue Majagua parties in Ciego de Ávila (early November)
A celebration which reflects the Cuban peasant culture and takes place in Ciego de Ávila, in the centre of the island. There is a lot of music, typical dress, competitions and regional dances. It is an experience for tourists who can learn more about Cuban history. And also enjoy the parrandas and dances with maracas, bongo, keys and accordion.
There are theatrical performances and of course what gives life to this party are the competing groups who dress in either Red or Blue and act as rival in the shows. Live singers, sports competitions and craft shows are common in this celebration.
6- Benny Moré Popular Music Festival in Cienfuegos (late November)
A popular festival in Cienfuegos which celebrates the life of Benny Moré, one of the most talented songwriters of Cuba. In this celebration,the comparsas, folkloric dances, Caribbean rhythms, local bands, workshops on music and art stand out.
The festival is usually celebrated on November 29, Benny Moré’s birth date, but this can change depending on the year. It is important that if you plan to attend, check the dates beforehand.
7- Festival of the Theater in Havana (End of October)
It is celebrated every year since 1980 in plazas and theatres in Havana where works of National and international fame are performed. It is an educational space to learn about the history, traditions and beliefs of the locals. There are workshops, conferences, contests, art shows and more.
The aim of the festival is to remember the movements and theatrical exponents that changed the world. The date of the celebration is not always the same, so if you want to attend check at the beginning of the year. It usually occurs in mid-August or late October.
Check out the schedule of the presentations, schedules and places to attend. Remember that there will be not only Cuban theatrical shows. There are also countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Australia, Venezuela, Spain and Germany.
What are the main holidays in Cuba?
- January 1st.Triumph of the Cuban Revolution.
- April 19th.Victory of Bahia de Cochinos
- May 1st. Workers Day
- From July 25 to 27.Commemoration of the Assault on the “Cuartel Moncada”
- July 26.Day of National Rebellion
- October 10th.Independence Day (Cuban Independence)
- December 25th.Christmas
- December 31stNew Years Eve
Safety when attending celebrations in Cuba
The celebrations in Cuba are surrounded by an atmosphere of euphoria and joy and sometimes you can be careless. Although this is a country with a low level of crime, we must take certain precautions and security measures, here are some:
- You can stay in private homes in Havana. It´s reasonably priced and you have the opportunity to be in contact with the locals. If you are looking for a variety of private homes, contact us.
- Do not carry important documents such as a passport, immunization letter or ID card from your country to the festivals. Always leave the originals in a safe place and carry copies in case of emergency. Also take a copy of your credit cards with you to Cuba to report in case of theft or loss
- Be aware of abusive prices or non regulated services on the streets. You can haggle. Always keep and eye on the attitude of who offers the service
- Wear light clothes. Remember that you are in a tropical climate and in the middle of the celebration, it will be hotter
- Protect your belongings and do not expose them too much. With so many people it will take time to detect and report a theft.
- Avoid wearing expensive jewellery or accessories that you can lose during Comparsas and dances.
- Drink plenty of water.
Ready to enjoy these traditions and celebrations in Cuba? Which one interests you most? Let us know in the comments or chat with us on Twitter