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Saturday, December 5, 1998 Published at 23:26 GMT

World: Americas

Castro ratifies Christmas holiday

President Fidel Castro of Cuba has formally decreed December the Twenty-Fifth a national holiday, re-instating Christmas Day as the official celebration it was before the Communist Party abolished it in 1969.

Last year, the population was given the day off as a gesture to Pope John Paul the Second, who visited the island the following month.

This week the Communist Party proposed re-establishing Christmas as a holiday for believers and non-believers alike.

A party statement said the original decision was not inspired by anti-religious sentiments, but by a need to keep people working to harvest the sugar crop.

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