(CNN Spanish) — Los Country Lists does not approve of the celebration of Christmas —or may ban it— are usually dominated by authoritarian regimes or countries that officially declare religions other than Catholicism. However, there is one secular Latin American country that, 100 years ago, and in full democracy, removed the celebration of the birth of Jesus from the official calendar and instead today, curiously, may be more representative of millions of people. World: Family Day.
Since 1919, Uruguayan law It does not recognize the Christmas holiday and Three Kings Day, Holy Week or Virgin Day. These dates are still celebrated on a larger scale, but with other official divisions: Christmas Family Day, Three Kings Day Children’s Day, Holy Week Tourism Week and Virgin Day which is the Day of the Beaches.
The secularization of religious holidays was one of several measures taken by the country between the late 19th and early 20th centuries to completely separate the state from the Catholic Church. This is a very unique process in the region and has become a case study for academics.
From cemeteries to Christmas: How Uruguay got rid of religious symbols
The first significant milestone marking this process of secularization of the country occurred as early as 1861, 30 years after the country ratified its first constitution. That year the church-controlled cemeteries came under state jurisdiction. Since then, a constitution was approved in 1917 that formally separated Church from State and guaranteed freedom of worship, the Catholic institution was losing more and more real and symbolic power.
For example, in 1885, civil marriage was compulsory before religious marriage. A few years later, in 1907, the Divorce Act was approved and references to God and the Gospels were suppressed in the oath of parliamentarians. A year ago it was decided to remove all crosses from public hospitals.
One of the most important decisions came in 1909 when religious instruction was abolished in public schools. José Pedro Varela, the promoter of secular, free and compulsory education in the country, summed up the attitude that guided the decisions of the politicians of the time in these words: “Say no cult, but we will have religion. The future, with a fixed gaze on the star of justice, will shine upon us; we will march ceaselessly to establish democracy, In which the people became priest and king and freedom was their guide and god.
However, the process is not uniform. According to academics such as Roger Gaymonat, the first results were not necessarily aimed at secularizing the country. However, starting in 1885 and from the early years of the 20th century, there was already an onslaught of presidents who would shape modern Uruguay: José Batlé y Orténez, who ruled between 1903 and 1907 and 1911. 1915.
Do Uruguayans believe?
A 2014 Pew Research Center study, still used as a reference in academic studies, ranks Uruguay among the Latin American countries with the highest percentage of non-religious people: 37% of the total, split between those with no particular religion (24%), atheists (10%) and those who define themselves as agnostic. (3%).
Beau describes Uruguay as “foreign”. “No other Latin American country has done the survey,” he says. To put this in context, in neighboring countries this percentage rises to 11% in the case of Argentina and 8% in Brazil. At the other end of the regional list is Paraguay, where only 1% fall into this category.
Regarding the religious affiliation of those who self-identified as part of a religion, the Pew study reports that 42% are Catholic, 15% Protestant, and 6% belong to “other” religions.
For Christmas lovers, peace of mind: trees are decorated and sweet bread is eaten
Just because Christmas is outlawed doesn’t mean it isn’t celebrated: the streets of Uruguayan cities, like many around the world, abound with Christmas trees and colored lights, though they’re usually absent in public spaces. with nativity scenes similar to those in other countries more identified with Catholicism.
Looking back 103 years later, making Christmas Day a family day may have hit the holiday’s spirit harder today than those who decided to do so intended.