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Some church traditions observe a fast in the Advent season. In the Roman church, the Advent fast was usually kept only two days a week, and has now been reduced to the vigil for Immaculate Conception and the three days of Ember Week, after the fast of St Lucia. Eastern churches, which do not observe a liturgical season in preparation for Christmas, instead observe a three-week or 40-day fast.

In Ethiopia, where the church dates back to the fourth century, Christmas (Genna) is primarily a religious observance, untouched by commercialism. Orthodox Ethiopian Christians observe a 40-day fast (abstinence from meat and dairy products) leading up to a night of prayer, singing, and dancing on Christmas Eve, January 6.

The twelve days of Christmas referred to in the popular Christmas carol actual begin after Christmas, leading to Epiphany (sometimes called  Twelfth Night).

The tradition of making an Advent wreath is sometimes attributed to Martin Luther. A ring of evergreen branches, representing the promise of eternal life, is studded with four candles, representing each Sunday of Advent. Often all red (symbolic of Christ’s blood), or all white (symbolic of Christ’s purity) candles are used. Traditionally, three candles are purple (for penance), and one pink (for coming joy).

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