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The Roman Catholic Church chose December 25 as the day for the Feast of the Nativity in order to give Christian meaning to existing pagan rituals.For example, the Church replaced festivities honoring the birth of Mithra, the god of light, with festivities to commemorate the birth of Jesus, whom the Bible calls the light of the world.

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The pagan Saturnalia and Brumalia were too deeply entrenched in popular custom to be set aside by Christian influence...In the fifth century the Western Church ordered it to be celebrated forever ON THE DAY OF THE OLD ROMAN FEAST OF THE BIRTH OF SOL [SUN], as no certain knowledge of the day of Christ's birth existed." Emphasis added.-Encyclopedia Americana, 1944 Edition"The idea of using evergreens at Christmas also came to England from pre-Christian northern European beliefs.During the Saturnalia, Roman citizens used to give "good luck" gifts (strenae) of fruits, pastries, or gold to their friends on New Year's Day." [Colliers' Encyclopedia. As part of all these celebrations, the people prepared special foods, decorated their homes with greenery, and joined in singing and gift giving.