CHRISTMAS IN CUBA
Christmas has been celebrated as a holiday in Cuba for only 3 years. Cuba officially became an atheist nation in 1962,
but the Christmas holiday was celebrated until 1969, when Fidel Castro decided it was interfering with the sugar harvest.
Accordingly, it was dropped from the Cuban calendar of holidays in 1969 as the island strove for a record sugar harvest.
However, the church had continued to call for greater respect for the celebration of Christmas after authorities banned
the public display of Christmas trees and nativity scenes, other than in places frequented by tourists, such as hotels.
In 1997 President Castro restored the holiday to honor the visit of Pope John Paul II in the island. Although Catholicism
is a broad cultural backdrop in Cuba, the number of practicing Catholics among the country's 11 million people is more
limited. With the reinstatement of the X'mas a large Mass is held in Havana's Revolution Square. Thousands of Cubans worship
at midnight Masses, as church bells ring out across Havana to mark the moment when Christmas Eve becomes Christmas Day.
Cubans celebrate Christmas with traditional fervor and revelry. Those who can afford it try to make a special meal and
decorate their houses, and church-going Christians attend services. Cubans spent the days before Christmas buying pork,
apple cider, beans, bananas and other fruit in preparation for their holiday festivities.
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