Saturday, December 16, 2006

Postal de Navidad - Christmas Card

( - centurionart)

It gets pretty busy around our place at this time of year. One of the hardest tasks we face is keeping up with our Christmas card list - buying them - the Better Half always finds nice ones at the "right price" - writing a short note in each, addressing the envelopes, getting the stamps, affixing the stamps, mailing the envelopes...whew! I'm tired already! Do not be fooled. We obtain a warm enjoyment from doing this, sending Christmas greetings, receiving Christmas greetings and admiring the beautiful cards from friends and family. The pack-rat in me confesses to a great difficulty in discarding these cards, year after year, more so when the sender, whether beloved family member or friend, is no longer with us. The cards help us remember joyful Christmases past - for Christmas, if you remember the Reason for the Season, should be a joyful time, in spite of shopping frenzies, gifts lists, and all that. To remember these beautiful Christmases past is to re-live them again in the company of our dear family and friends - the ones departed still loved, never forgotten.

In Cuba, Bc - not BC - you catch my drift I'm sure, Habaneros as well as folks in the other five provinces engaged in this pleasant custom of sending and receiving Christmas greeting cards, such as this one, the image shamelessly borrowed from a good friend's blog - being that, unfortunately, there is no original from those days, salvaged to share with you.

(Blog for Cuba)

  • Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

  • Even in Cuba, in those pre-Scrooge days.

    A thought ran through my mind as the Season would be nice to send a Christmas card to all our good readers, whether family, friends, friends yet to be met, or even perfect strangers - no, not strangers; when you visit this site, you are our guest - as you would have been had you knocked on the door at La Cret 378, say around Christmas 1950...

    Before I forget, indulge me in this bragging moment. The nice vintage photography is by Nick Quiroga - father Nick; an appropriate nickname for this time of year, come to think about it. The film was the trusty Kodachrome slide type, probably ASA 64, for the technically-minded photo fans; the camera was a Kodak 35mm, with which he recorded many aspects of Quiroga life during the 40s and Nifty Fifties. These images - most of them from my first Christmas in Havana - are his gifts to us in this gift-giving Season. Ah, one clarification - the nice black and white photography is courtesy of my - unfortunately late - maternal uncle Mariano Granja, who for a time dabbled in photography and the photographer's art. There was skill there. These too are gifts to us. Thanks, dear uncle; may you be in a place filled with Beautiful Imagery, and Perfect Living Color.

    Now, back to La Cret 378. As you are about to knock on the door, you could not help notice this "platanillo" plant; the red and green colors go right with the theme of the Season; we could consider it the Cuban equivalent of a Poinsettia, happily blooming in the Santos Suarez neighborhood, December 1950.

    The lady of the house would then greet you, invite you in, surely offer you a cup of strong-and-sweet cafe Cubano, which she still makes with skill and love.

    She would have insisted on showing you the Christmas tree she had lovingly put together. Readers, if you are into "retro" Christmas adornments - for those who wonder what "retro" is, it means going back to past fashions and customs for inspiration in designing and decorating - perhaps you should take a close look at the tree for some ideas. Get those "bubble" Christmas tree lights out! Or some "bubbly" champagne, if you have no lights - but drink moderately...

    But we were not the only ones putting up Yule trees in Cuba; and they came in all sizes, such as this little example seen in the apartment of our good Focsa friends Ignacio Melendez and his lovely wife, Rosa Bustillo de Melendez, during the 1957-1958 Holidays.

    A tiny slice of Christmas decorating in Cuba, remembered in this still from Mr. Melendez's 8mm home movie.

    We must remember the Reason for The Season and not get "fixated" on the gift giving-and-taking; nevertheless, nothing wrong in wishing Santa will drop by with a nice present or two...

    Santa, Cuban Version, as depicted on the cover of Carteles magazine, December 23, 1951. Well! Never thought Santa would look so good. Then again, am not looking at Santa from the perspective of an 18-month-old, as was the case in December 1951.

    I'm not sure the "yearling" blogger would have appreciated this particular present either, but on the other hand, this is now 2006, so...ah, better wish for things more appropriate for my age group. For one thing, it may keep the Mrs. from whacking me with the Christmas tree. Still, another nice cover from Carteles which hit the newstands January 6, 1952.

    These come from - they display a wealth of magazine cover images from those bygone days; not just Carteles, but also Bohemia and quite a few others. Take a peek and you will not be disappointed.

    That first Christmas, 1950 a little guy got together with, literally, the "girl next door," his little friend during the La Cret years, and made a brave attempt to share his bountiful presents with her, and bring a smile to her face.

    I'm sorry, Iliana! What did I do wrong? It is still a mystery, 56 years down the road. I just seem to have this effect on my very honest - and blunt - daughter puts it, "Dad, you're just ANNOYING!"

    So, for the Christmas 1951 Season, I gave up women and decided to try sports - baseball, to be exact. It will be noted that nothing came of that effort either; I suppose my genetic make-up is such there was never a sporting chance the kid would shine in baseball, or any other sport whatsoever.

    Fortunately, it appears the Reason for The Season decided to gift the kid's offspring with sporting talent. For that, we are grateful - more so for the gift of her presence, the gift that keeps on giving not just at Christmas, but all year round.
    ****************(photo by George Quiroga)********************

    This happy couple posed for their unofficial Christmas portrait sometime in December 1951. I think they make a handsome couple but then again, prejudices come into play.

    They too have been a gift to my sisters, myself, their grandchildren, family, friends, and all those fortunate enough to know them. Through Christmas Times-and-Spaces Past, Mr. and Mrs. Quiroga send you their best wishes for the Season.
    "Merry Cuban Christmas 1951 to you and yours, from our happy home!"

    "Merry Florida Christmas 2006 to you and yours from our happy home!"

    Speaking of our first Happy Home at La Cret - here's an Unexpected Christmas Gift courtesy of a friend who traveled to Havana last month and presented us with this well-composed image...

    La Cret 378 seems to be faring well, 54 Christmases after the last one we celebrated there; we have no idea if the family who now enjoys the home celebrates Nochebuena, the traditional Cuban Christmas Eve, but in the spirit of the Season, we wish them, at the very least, a Blessed Christmas.

    How about a little Christmas Season music with a Cuban flavor? Thanks to mom and dad's love of the music from those bygone Christmases Past, we can offer you a tune or two from this original - Made In Cuba "Bc" - 33 1/3 RPM Long-Playing record by Panart...for you kids of this virtual generation, think of the artifact as the equivalent of a giant CD...

    Those of you familiar with the Havana waterfront should recognize the buildings reflected on the surface of the Christmas tree ornament. Hint: Maine Monument in the middle.

    Go ahead - get into the spirit and dance to this Cuban Christmas tune with the flavor of the Cuban countryside...specially if, unlike your blogging fiend, I mean, friend, you are a good dancer.

    Ah, a little technical misguidance first. Just joking! But, I am no expert. You will probably want to play the song using Windows Media Player. Because of the file format, Quicktime for Windows is unlikely to work. You could try using a turntable...joking with you again! Remember, 'tis the Season To Be Jolly!

  • En La Noche Buena-Senen Suarez y Su Conjunto-Canta Miguel Hernandez

  • Well! Running out of space on this digital Christmas card. The truth is, am running out of energy. 56 Christmases ago the opposite was true, am sure. It is important, however, to get the Postal de Navidad out on time - before Christmas, of course. The beauty of it is, this one Postal de Navidad, through the magic of the Web, iterates into millions and millions of greetings; surely at least someone will receive it.

    This is for family, for all loved ones, for friends - old ones, newly made ones, ones to be met, anywhere; for the Band of Bloggers, for good ol' Uncle Sam, for our compadres Habaneros, indeed for all Cubans. May you have Peace, Freedom, Love, Health - all the good things good people should be blessed with; may the Prince of Peace be with you this Christmas - that is indeed the best Gift of all.