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Wednesday, December 24, 1997 Published at 23:42 GMT



World: Middle East

Christmas comes to Bethlehem
image: [ Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem ]
Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem

Christmas celebrations are taking place in the West Bank town of Bethlehem - the birthplace of Jesus.

Traditionally the highlight is Mass in the famous Church of the Nativity.

Although the population of the town is now overwhelmingly Muslim, most people welcome the thousands of pilgrims and tourists, and the revenue they bring. More than half the town's 35,000 citizens are unemployed.

Because of security alerts across the region, the number of visitors has fallen this year.

The celebrations will go on for several weeks - as well as the Roman Catholic and Protestant celebrations on December 25, the town marks the Greek, Syrian and Coptic Orthodox Christmas on January 6 and that of the Armenians on January 18.
 





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