Thousands enjoy merry Christmas in Bethlehem

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Associated Press

Posted on December 24, 2012 at 7:04 PM

Updated Monday, Dec 24 at 7:30 PM

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — Thousands of Christians from the world over have packed Manger Square in Bethlehem to celebrate the birth of Jesus in the town where he was born.

For their Palestinian hosts, this holiday season was an especially joyous one, with the hardships of the Israeli occupation that clouded previous Christmas Eve celebrations eased by the United Nations' recent recognition of an independent state of Palestine.

Festivities led up to the Midnight Mass at St. Catherine's Church, next to the fourth-century Church of the Nativity, built over the grotto where tradition says Jesus was born.

A packed Manger Square, resplendent with strings of lights, decorations and a 55-foot Christmas tree, took on a festive atmosphere as pilgrims mixed with locals and a choral group from the Baptist Church in Jerusalem performed carols.

%@AP Links

129-r-27-(Musicians playing 'Angels We Have Heard on High' on Christmas Eve, near Manger Square near the Church of the Nativity)--Distant sound of musicians playing the gloria refrain to 'Angels We Have Heard on High' on Christmas Eve, near Manger Square near the Church of the Nativity. (24 Dec 2012)

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APPHOTO JRL120: A cross is held during Christmas celebrations outside the Church of Nativity, traditionally believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Monday, Dec. 24, 2012. Thousands of Christian worshippers and tourists arrived in Bethlehem on Monday to mark Christmas at the site where many believe Jesus Christ was born. (AP Photo/Adel Hana) (24 Dec 2012)

<<APPHOTO JRL120 (12/24/12)>>

APPHOTO JRL121: A Christian worshiper walks out of the Church of Nativity, traditionally believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Monday, Dec. 24, 2012. Thousands of Christian worshippers and tourists arrived in Bethlehem on Monday to mark Christmas at the site where many believe Jesus Christ was born. (AP Photo/Adel Hana) (24 Dec 2012)

<<APPHOTO JRL121 (12/24/12)>>

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