Cuban dictator Fidel Castro died at 90 today. It is fitting that he did the weekend after Thanksgiving, as it marks the beginning in the United States of the Christmas season.
At least, for most people it does. Some people start listening to Christmas music, decking the halls and shopping for gifts for friends and family on November 1st. (I may or may not be a member of this category.) Other grinches don’t care to celebrate until Christmas Eve.
In America, however we may wonder at the lack of cheer of those in the latter group, they are allowed to carry on in their Scrooge-like manner because there is no official state position on the beginning of the Christmas season. In America, you can be a Christmas season agnostic.
For 30 years, such freedom was taken from the Cuban people by the Castro regime. From 1969 to 1998, Christmas was banned in Cuba. Just when you thought Castro couldn’t get any worse, you find that he denied a historically Catholic people the legal freedom to celebrate the birth of the savior.
Some may see the outlawing of Santa Claus and consumerist tendencies of the season to be in line with the anti-American consumerism position of the Castro regime. But the official reason for the ban on the season was that Fidel needed people working the sugar harvest.
Get it? The regime gave materialistic justifications for its anti-spiritual policy. And Cubans could still exchange gifts, but they had to do so in January on a different day. Communism is just materialistic as a consumerist economy, but that’s a point for another time.
This move followed logically under the Castro regime; it was totalitarian, as well as atheistic. No remnant of the old, un-Castro world could be allowed to remain.
Ultimately, Christmas was restored as a national holiday when Pope John Paul II’s visit put pressure on the regime, the Soviet Union no longer around to support the failed communist island. This temporary lifting of the ban stuck, because normal people like Christmas.
The celebration of Christ’s birth, officially illegal for three decades in Cuba, ultimately outlasted the silly, atheistic policy of the brutal, personality-driven regime that banned it. Today, it has officially and inevitably outlasted the architect of that regime.
In doing so, it has reminded us of the hope brought by Christ himself, that peace on Earth and goodwill to men will outlast firing squads, gulags for political prisoners and suspected homosexuals or government-imposed economic misery.
That is why the hope of the Christmas season is so important and it is why all-encompassing states will try to exterminate it — to no avail. If I had to guess, Fidel Castro will, ironically, end up in the one place where there is no Christmas, ever.