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Parents who celebrate Christmas, though, say it’s a secular time to celebrate with their families on a national holiday.

“To make my two children happy, I buy gifts for them and ask their mother to prepare a very hearty meal, but we don’t go to Mass,” says Oumar Fall, 46, who has a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old.

Santa Claus, known in this former French colony as Pere Noel, also makes the rounds at upscale shopping centers and grocery stores in the weeks before Christmas.