7 Traditions Only Cubans Can Understand

Cuban license plate
Cuban license plate | © Pedro Szekely / Flickr
Jack Guy

Every country has its cultural traditions, and Cuba is no different. Here are some of the most interesting ones to look out for.

In Cuba, stick to the casas particulares with the blue sign

Superstitions

If you are staying in casas particulares on your travels, you will likely be spending a good amount of time with Cubans. Be aware of the following superstitions that your hosts might point out to you:

Don’t let a rocking chair swing by itself, as it’s a symbol of death. Always make sure rocking chairs are stationary when you get up.

Itchy palms? Your luck is in and you’ll receive some money soon.

Lechon asado

Christmas celebrations with no presents

Christmas in Cuba is celebrated on Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve. The traditional meal is a whole suckling pig prepared in a backyard oven, and the party is huge. Families get together, friends pop over, and even neighbors and co-workers are invited. As a result, Christmas Day is more about recovery than festivities.

Call your daughter, friends and family members ‘gordita’

If you have an ear for Spanish, you might notice that Cubans have some unique terms of endearment. It’s not unusual to hear women called gordita, or fatty, around friends and family. It might seem strange to English-speakers, but it’s widely accepted in Cuba.

Fiesta of the Red and Blue

In early November each year, the town of Majagua in Ciego de Ávila comes alive with a celebration of peasant culture. Revelers dance, eat traditional food and take part in regional ceremonies. The town is split into red and blue sides, which inhabitants are free to choose, which then face off in dance battles. Spectators will be able to experience a slice of traditional country life.

Wedding

Help with the honeymoon by pinning money to a bride’s dress

If you’re lucky enough to be invited to a wedding, you will notice that male guests will dance with the bride and pin money to her dress. This is a tradition designed to help the newly-married couple pay for their honeymoon, and it’s good form to join in.

Burn away bad experiences on New Year’s Eve

Cubans believe that burning an effigy helps get rid of the bad things that might have happened in the past year, before setting off fireworks to celebrate the good that is coming in the new year. Don’t be alarmed if you see a human-shaped doll burning away to ashes; it symbolizes the death of your regrets and bad memories. Onwards to next year!

Baby names can be a minefield

While some Cubans prefer to stick to traditional names, many others make up their own unique names for their children. They are sometimes cobbled together from pieces of relatives’ names, or they might be entirely made up. It’s a strange cultural quirk that can make for some real challenges when it comes to pronouncing – and remembering – what to call your new friends.

landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article