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The assigning of December 25 as the birth date of Jesus was decided by Sextus Julius Africanus, the first Christian historian, in 221. Gradually it became universally accepted. The date is associated with the Roman “day of the birth of the unconquered sun”. It celebrated the winter solstice that started the lengthening of daylight hours. Christmas began to be widely celebrated with a specific liturgy in the 9th Century. It was then that many Roman Catholic churches began the celebration of mass at midnight. Gradually during the Renaissance, many people began to decorate their homes with branches fir from trees. Eventually, the entire tree was brought into the home and decorated with apples. The Duchess of Silesia in 1611 added candles to the tree. Toward the end of the 18th century, the practice of giving gifts to family members was well established. The practice was to remind Christians of God’s gift of Jesus to humankind. In countries such as Austria and Germany, the connection between the Christian festival and the family holiday is made by identifying the Christ Child as the giver of gifts to the family In South and Central America, unique religious and secular traditions mark the Christmas celebration. In Mexico, on days leading up to Christmas, many children reenact the search by Mary and Joseph for a place to stay. Later children try to break a piñata filled with toys and candy. In Brazil, Christmas is a great summer festival including picnics, fireworks, and as well as a solemn procession of priests to the church to celebrate midnight mass. Many Christians in Japan celebrate the religious nature of the feast.  Japan, however, is predominantly a Shintō and Buddhist country, so many of the holiday’s secular aspects—Christmas trees and decorations, even the singing of Christmas songs such as “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or “White Christmas”—are widely observed instead of the religious aspects.

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