How to Survive Cuban Easter

Easter isn't your standard Cuban holiday. There's no pig involved (gasp).

Also, the bearded dude is a good guy (double-gasp). This second point is particularly confusing if you're a child del Exilio. See, Jesus and Fidel both rock serious facial hair, and it was hard to tell the difference as a kid. El dictador was the Antichrist, but his near-exact replica was dutifully displayed in your grandmother's bedroom in February and March.

Jesucristo changed your spring weekends too – you went from comiendo mierda with your primos and playing dominoes every Sunday to putting on your best clothes and spending an hour in a stuffy church. Then — what in hell? — the dude rose from the dead. Your mom freaked out. And you never thought she subscribed to a religion other than Cristina Saralegui. As you thought about it, though, you realized she was repenting for all that chisme she used against her friends all year.

Surviving Cuban Easter is a lot easier if you prepare. Here are some suggestions:

5. Don't wear makeup.
Latinas rarely leave the house without looking their best, but that changes at Easter time. Come Ash Wednesday, you're obliged to attend misa and get some thick black stuff smeared on your forehead. You're still not sure why this custom exists or why your parents decided it's important, but you do know this: Those black ashes can easily fall into your eye. This can cause your eyeliner to smudge. The result: You look like a circus freak for the better half of the day. So save yourself the trouble and go natural the days leading up to Easter just to be on the safe side.

4. Get used to that smell.
You never dreamed there was anything that would keep your family away from meat, but apparently Jesus is the answer. Cubans stick to the rule of skipping meat Fridays during Lent. That means masita de puerco is out and traditional bacalao a fish with a stench so pungent you can smell it from the driveway as you're pulling in after a long day's work — is in. And because bacalao is the only dish on the menu every Friday night around Easter, you might want to have Papa John's on speed dial. After all, a cheese pizza is totally the Cuban version of kosher. 
3. Collect palm fronds.
Fallen palm fronds in Miami are a dime a dozen, but during Easter, they take on new meaning. It's extremely important that you know how to weave them as well as the homeless guy selling them on 15th Street and Ocean Drive, because as Easter Sunday draws nearer, everyone you know — from the cashier at Sedano's to your server at La Carreta — will be carrying a cross-shaped one in their cars, on their purses, and at the mall.

2. Prepare for the parking lot brawl.
Members of the Cuban community have decided Easter is the one day of the year they should go to church. You would think that everyone would be on their best Catholic behavior after spending an hour reflecting on the resurrection of Christ, but they're just as angry as any other day.  The parking lot brawl is one of those historic annual events for which you must brace yourself. It's supercharged with all the pent-up anger everyone was keeping inside during misa. Don't be surprised if even the priest makes a run for it so he doesn't have to deal with the traffic. You should probably grab a seat by the door. 

1. Forget about seeing your old friend, Mr. Pig.
After celebrating every major milestone of your life with a nice slab of lechón asado, you're confused as to why this is the one holiday that nosotros los Cubanos choose to skip carne puerco. It really should be blasphemous to have a celebration sin pig. Instead, partygoers arrive with a bunch of dishes you wouldn't be caught dead eating on Noche Buena, like spinach dip and turkey. You're left craving old faithful until the next holiday — or random family lechonera — rolls around. But after spending the past eight or so weeks eating smelly fish on Fridays, you take that chicken salad, no questions asked.

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