On the annual Christmas Eve celebration in Manger Square, thousands of Palestinians and internationals showed up to spread a spirit of joy and happiness on the religious occasion, which has become a national holiday and one of the most important, festive events of the year.

The celebrations included scouts parades which started in the early morning, in addition to the parade of the Archbishop and Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem Bishop Pierre Batista Pizzaballa, and choirs singing carols in the square, decorated with lights and a huge tree.

The celebrations continued till the midnight mass, which was attended by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and PA officials.

On a related note, the minister of tourism, Rula Maaya pointed out that almost three million tourists will have visited Palestine within the year of 2018, showing a significant increase since 2017, adding that 95% of the hotels in Bethlehem were fully booked during Christmas time.

Palestinian shop-owners in the square as well confirmed that they were experiencing a better year with more tourists coming and a relatively calm political situation.

Despite living under an uncontrolled political situation and the existence of a 70-year-old military occupation, Palestinians welcomed Christmas with lifted spirits, showing strong resilience and steadfastness.

Christmas Eve celebrations in Manger Square: