Middle East

Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem

Orthodox Churches celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7

Qais Abu Samra   | 06.01.2020
Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem

BETHLEHEM, Palestine  

Orthodox Christians are preparing to celebrate Christmas in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

"Despite the Israeli restrictions, Bethlehem is getting ready to celebrate Christmas with joy and happiness," Geryes Qumsiyeh, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Tourism Ministry, told Anadolu Agency on Monday.

Since early morning, work was in full swing by Palestinian scout groups to hold shows in front of the Church of the Nativity in celebration of the festival.

"The Christmas message is to remain happy in spite of pain and suffering in the birthplace of Jesus because of [the Israeli] occupation," Qusmiyeh said.

According to the spokesman, more than 3.5 million tourists visited Bethlehem in 2019.

A Christmas Mass will be held Monday midnight at the Church of the Nativity, which will be attended by senior Palestinian officials, including President Mahmoud Abbas, and foreign officials.

Thousands of Palestinians and Christians from around the world are expected to gather in the main square outside the Church -- built on the site where Jesus is believed to have been born -- to celebrate Christmas.

Christmas festivities are typically a boost for Bethlehem, which is surrounded by Israel's separation wall that cuts the city off from the rest of the occupied West Bank.

While Catholic and Protestant Churches celebrate Christmas Eve on Dec. 24, the festival is celebrated by Orthodox Churches on Jan. 7.

*Ahmed Asmar contributed to this report from Ankara

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