Christmas in Cuba is one of the most joyous occasions in the country and observed with great fun and festivity. Following the declaration of Cuba as an atheist nation in 1962, the festival was removed from list of holidays of Cuban calendar in the year 1969 when Fidel Castro decided it was interfering with the sugar harvest festival. Cuban authorities banned the public display of Christmas trees and nativity scenes, other than in places frequented by tourists, such as hotels. But in 1997, President Castro restored the holiday to honor, in the honor of the visit of Pope John Paul II in the island.
With Christmas coming back to its former glory, a large Mass is now held in Havana's Revolution Square. Thousands of Cubans worship at midnight Masses, as church bells ring out across Havana at the stroke of the midnight hour signifying the transition from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day. Giant-sized TV screens are set up in the square outside Havanna's cathedral so that crowds can watch the Pope celebrate Christmas Mass at St. Peter's in Rome.
Cubans celebrate Christmas with much enthusiasm and revelry. Gifts are a major highlight of Christmas celebrations in Cuba. Since the occassion signifies spreading love and happiness among fellow human beings, gifts are an inseperable part of the festivities. Those who can afford it try to make a special meal and decorate their houses, and church-going Christians attend services. Cubans spend the days before Christmas buying beans, bananas, fruits and other foods and gifts in preparation for their holiday festivities. Houses are beautifully decorated for Christmas. Dazzling lights, beautiful Christmas tree, balloons, gifts, toys, bells, stars are the major components of Christmas celebrations.