Christmas celebrations return to Bethlehem after two years of Covid restrictions

With a large evergreen tree, colourful balloons within the streets and selfies within the Church of the Nativity, Christmas tourism has returned to Bethlehem after two years of Covid-related restrictions.

Bethlehem, revered in Christian custom because the birthplace of Christ, attracts hundreds of pilgrims and vacationers at Christmas yearly, a windfall dried up over the previous two years by the coronavirus pandemic and journey restrictions.

Now with restrictions lifted within the Palestinian territories and Israel, the place the closest worldwide airport with entry to Bethlehem is situated, the southern West Financial institution city is in a celebratory ambiance.

Scouts marched with bagpipes whereas hundreds of spectators lined the streets with balloons and cotton sweet.

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzaballa, greeted the worshipers upon his arrival on the town, earlier than main the annual Christmas Eve procession on the Church of the Nativity.

“Christmas is the city’s celebration, and we spent lots of effort and time getting ready for it,” Bethlehem Mayor Hanna Hanania advised AFP.

“We wished to have worldwide participation, and we organized songs and exhibits for youngsters with singers from France, South Africa and Malta,” he added.

An ‘necessary place’ Vacationers crowd the streets, retailers and stone buildings of this Palestinian metropolis, the place Christians and Muslims reside facet by facet.

“It was nice to be right here,” mentioned Paul Wittenberger, a 40-year-old American from Michigan who was visiting his father and brothers.

“We have been right here for 3 days and the climate’s been good, and we’re fortunate we acquired out of the storm” sweeping the USA this weekend, he mentioned.

For John Hughes, simply “hanging out” in Bethlehem was significant.

“It is a very cool metropolis,” the 22-year-old Canadian from Vancouver advised AFP.

For him, the birthplace of Christ was “an necessary place—particularly at Christmas”.

Michael El Siriani, proprietor of a pottery and porcelain workshop, was delighted to see vacationers flocking again to the town after a tough two years, which noticed native lodges empty.

“Issues are a lot better now after the coronavirus pandemic,” he mentioned. Furthermore, vacationers are beginning to sleep within the metropolis once more.”

Siriani’s sentiments have been confirmed by the Palestinian Authority, which governs the occupied West Financial institution.

“Because the starting of this yr, particularly since March, we’ve began receiving pilgrims and vacationers from everywhere in the world,” Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Maaya advised AFP.

“To date, we’ve acquired about 700,000 vacationers from everywhere in the world,” she mentioned.

In the meantime, pilgrims held prayers on the Church of the Nativity on Saturday whereas others took selfies carrying pink and white Santa hats, hours earlier than the normal midnight mass and needs of peace.


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