BETHLEHEM, Palestine

Christmas celebrations began on Thursday in Bethlehem city, southern West Bank, amid strict measures to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Christians gathered in Bethlehem’s Church of Nativity, a site believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, to celebrate Christmas.

Several activities, including scout performances, were performed in the Church’s square. However, strict COVID-19 measures limited the number of people attending the activities.

BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK – DECEMBER 24: Palestinian marching band parade as part of Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem, West Bank on December 24, 2020. ( Issam Rimawi – Anadolu Agency )

The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, is scheduled to arrive in Bethlehem to attend the midnight mass on Thursday-Friday.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Bethlehem’s Mayor Anton Salman said that Christmas this year is being celebrated with limited religious activities under strict health protocols to stem the coronavirus.

“Despite the pandemic, Bethlehem sends a message of peace to the world,” he added.

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

Copyright 2021 Anadolu Agency. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.