Like many places around the world, Bethlehem has been changed this year because of COVID-19:
The Palestinian Health Ministry has recommended strict limits on Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem this year due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Celebrations in the biblical town revered by Christians as Jesus’ birthplace are usually attended by thousands of people from around the world.
But this year, the ministry has recommended the upcoming Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Manger Square be limited to 50 people, with the lights of the tree and area restaurants closed at 9 p.m. throughout the Christmas season. In its recommendations Saturday, it said religious services on Christmas Eve should also have limited attendance.
The tree-lighting this weekend went off with just a small crowd:
A small group of residents and religious leaders participated in the tree-lighting ceremony at Manger Square near the Church of the Nativity, where Christians believe Jesus was born. Others watched it virtually due to restrictions prompted by the virus pandemic.
Some officials, including Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh, attended in person and addressed event participants watching online.
Bethlehem Mayor Anton Salman said Christmas is being observed this year in ways like no time before.
“We resorted to modern technology and to the virtual world to celebrate the lighting of the Christmas tree, wishing hope and optimism would flutter upon Palestine and the world,” Salman said.
See the lighting below.