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Christmas

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Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, on 25 December, a date that was established during the 3rd century. The first references to the celebration of the Nativity are to be found in the mid-2nd Century, at a time when the Christians were still being persecuted. The festivities were given formal recognition during the 4th century, when the Emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity and ensured the continuity of the religious celebrations.

Many Roman customs ended up being included in the Christian festival, as, for example, the habit of decorating the house with leaves and green plants representing eternal life and the hope that Spring will come again. This custom was practised during the "Saturnalia", the festival celebrated in honour of Saturn, the god of agriculture, held in mid-December, and on the calends of January (i.e. the beginning of the month). During this period, presents were exchanged with friends, wishing them good luck for the forthcoming year.

It was in 567 that the Council of Tours established a period of fasting before Christmas, during the Advent period, and proclaimed the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany to be a sacred and festive time. This Christian rule was maintained for many centuries and is still observed today by the more religious believers.

Since the early 2Oth century, the beginning of the Advent of Christmas was fixed as being the Sunday nearest to St. Andrew´s Day (30 November), continuing thereafter over the following four Sundays, for a period of at least 28 days.


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