Christmas, around the Middle East

Published December 29th, 2010 - 13:49 GMT

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Christians in the Middle East have had a hard time this year – especially in Iraq and Egypt. Their numbers are dwindling and in certain instances they’ve faced discrimination or worse.  Still, this hasn’t stopped one of the world’s oldest religious minorities from celebrating Christmas – which commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ – on 25th December.

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A Christian choir wearing cowboy hats sing during Christmas Eve celebrations, in the Ashrafiyeh neighborhood of east Beirut.
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Image 1 of 17:  1 / 17A Christian choir wearing cowboy hats sing during Christmas Eve celebrations, in the Ashrafiyeh neighborhood of east Beirut.

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A Christmas tree and ornaments decorate a park in the Beirut suburb of Sin el-Fil.
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Image 2 of 17:  2 / 17A Christmas tree and ornaments decorate a park in the Beirut suburb of Sin el-Fil.

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A child enjoys listening to a choir during Christmas Eve celebrations, in the Ashrafiyeh neighborhood of east Beirut.
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Image 3 of 17:  3 / 17A child enjoys listening to a choir during Christmas Eve celebrations, in the Ashrafiyeh neighborhood of east Beirut.

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A Lebanese caver from the(ALES) disguised as Santa Claus, distributes gifts to children of the Association members and their comrades as the cavers celebrate with them Christmas inside a cave in the village of Rweiss nearly at 2000 meters above sea level in the Lebanese mountains north of Beirut.
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Image 4 of 17:  4 / 17A Lebanese caver from the(ALES) disguised as Santa Claus, distributes gifts to children of the Association members and their comrades as the cavers celebrate with them Christmas inside a cave in the village of Rweiss nearly at 2000 meters above sea level in the Lebanese mountains north of Beirut.

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Palestinian women walk past a giant Santa Claus in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem, as the town prepares for scores of Christian pilgrims gathering in the traditional birthplace of Jesus Christ to celebrate Christmas.
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Image 5 of 17:  5 / 17Palestinian women walk past a giant Santa Claus in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem, as the town prepares for scores of Christian pilgrims gathering in the traditional birthplace of Jesus Christ to celebrate Christmas.

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A Palestinian girl dressed in a Santa Claus attire poses alongside other worshippers inside the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, as Christian flock to the what they believe is the birth place of Jesus Christ to celebrate his birth during Christmas mass.
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Image 6 of 17:  6 / 17A Palestinian girl dressed in a Santa Claus attire poses alongside other worshippers inside the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, as Christian flock to the what they believe is the birth place of Jesus Christ to celebrate his birth during Christmas mass.

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Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad (C) shakes hands with a man dressed as Santa Claus as he takes part in the 3rd annual march for unity and peace marking Christmas in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem.
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Image 7 of 17:  7 / 17Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad (C) shakes hands with a man dressed as Santa Claus as he takes part in the 3rd annual march for unity and peace marking Christmas in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem.

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A Palestinian Christian boy wearing a Santa Claus costume waves during a ceremony ahead of Christmas attended by the head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fuad Twal, outside the Latin Catholic Church in Gaza City.
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Image 8 of 17:  8 / 17A Palestinian Christian boy wearing a Santa Claus costume waves during a ceremony ahead of Christmas attended by the head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fuad Twal, outside the Latin Catholic Church in Gaza City.

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A Palestinian policeman stands guard as Nigerian worshippers cross a street near the Church of the Nativity in the Biblical West Bank city of Bethlehem, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, as the Holy Land prepares to mark Christmas.
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Image 9 of 17:  9 / 17A Palestinian policeman stands guard as Nigerian worshippers cross a street near the Church of the Nativity in the Biblical West Bank city of Bethlehem, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, as the Holy Land prepares to mark Christmas.

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Arab-Israeli women walk past stalls selling Christmas decorations at a market in the Arab-Israeli town of Nazareth.
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Image 10 of 17:  10 / 17Arab-Israeli women walk past stalls selling Christmas decorations at a market in the Arab-Israeli town of Nazareth.

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Israeli women pose for a picture with a Palestinian man dressed as Santa Claus standing between Christmas trees at a municipality distribution point at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem's old city, ahead of Christmas celebrations.
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Image 11 of 17:  11 / 17Israeli women pose for a picture with a Palestinian man dressed as Santa Claus standing between Christmas trees at a municipality distribution point at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem's old city, ahead of Christmas celebrations.

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Sudan's First Vice President and south Sudan leader Salva Kiir (seated L) attends the Christmas service at the Juba Catholic Cathedral, in the southern Sudan's capital city, in what may be their last Christmas in a unified Sudan.
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Image 12 of 17:  12 / 17Sudan's First Vice President and south Sudan leader Salva Kiir (seated L) attends the Christmas service at the Juba Catholic Cathedral, in the southern Sudan's capital city, in what may be their last Christmas in a unified Sudan.

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South Sudanese attend a Christmas service at the Juba Catholic cathedral, in the southern Sudan's capital city, in what may be their last Christmas in a unified Sudan.
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Image 13 of 17:  13 / 17South Sudanese attend a Christmas service at the Juba Catholic cathedral, in the southern Sudan's capital city, in what may be their last Christmas in a unified Sudan.

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South Sudanese gather following the Christmas service at the Juba Catholic Cathedral, in the southern Sudan's capital city.
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Image 14 of 17:  14 / 17South Sudanese gather following the Christmas service at the Juba Catholic Cathedral, in the southern Sudan's capital city.

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Iraqi Chaldean Catholics gather ouside the Cathedral of Kirkuk following Christmas day mass in northern Iraq.
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Image 15 of 17:  15 / 17Iraqi Chaldean Catholics gather ouside the Cathedral of Kirkuk following Christmas day mass in northern Iraq.

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Mainly Iraqi Kurd children gather to greet Santa Claus in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil on Christmas eve.
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Image 16 of 17:  16 / 17Mainly Iraqi Kurd children gather to greet Santa Claus in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil on Christmas eve.

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A shrine for Iraqi Christians who were killed in Al-Qaeda siege is erected at Sayidat alNejat Church in Baghdad  as Christmas for Iraqi Christian community will this year be a time of fear and cancelled celebrations instead of rejoicing following renewed threats by Al-Qaeda and the church massacre.
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Image 17 of 17:  17 / 17A shrine for Iraqi Christians who were killed in Al-Qaeda siege is erected at Sayidat alNejat Church in Baghdad as Christmas for Iraqi Christian community will this year be a time of fear and cancelled celebrations instead of rejoicing following renewed threats by Al-Qaeda and the church massacre.

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1

A Christian choir wearing cowboy hats sing during Christmas Eve celebrations, in the Ashrafiyeh neighborhood of east Beirut.

Image 1 of 17A Christian choir wearing cowboy hats sing during Christmas Eve celebrations, in the Ashrafiyeh neighborhood of east Beirut.

2

A Christmas tree and ornaments decorate a park in the Beirut suburb of Sin el-Fil.

Image 2 of 17A Christmas tree and ornaments decorate a park in the Beirut suburb of Sin el-Fil.

3

A child enjoys listening to a choir during Christmas Eve celebrations, in the Ashrafiyeh neighborhood of east Beirut.

Image 3 of 17A child enjoys listening to a choir during Christmas Eve celebrations, in the Ashrafiyeh neighborhood of east Beirut.

4

A Lebanese caver from the(ALES) disguised as Santa Claus, distributes gifts to children of the Association members and their comrades as the cavers celebrate with them Christmas inside a cave in the village of Rweiss nearly at 2000 meters above sea level in the Lebanese mountains north of Beirut.

Image 4 of 17A Lebanese caver from the(ALES) disguised as Santa Claus, distributes gifts to children of the Association members and their comrades as the cavers celebrate with them Christmas inside a cave in the village of Rweiss nearly at 2000 meters above sea level in the Lebanese mountains north of Beirut.

5

Palestinian women walk past a giant Santa Claus in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem, as the town prepares for scores of Christian pilgrims gathering in the traditional birthplace of Jesus Christ to celebrate Christmas.

Image 5 of 17Palestinian women walk past a giant Santa Claus in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem, as the town prepares for scores of Christian pilgrims gathering in the traditional birthplace of Jesus Christ to celebrate Christmas.

6

A Palestinian girl dressed in a Santa Claus attire poses alongside other worshippers inside the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, as Christian flock to the what they believe is the birth place of Jesus Christ to celebrate his birth during Christmas mass.

Image 6 of 17A Palestinian girl dressed in a Santa Claus attire poses alongside other worshippers inside the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, as Christian flock to the what they believe is the birth place of Jesus Christ to celebrate his birth during Christmas mass.

7

Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad (C) shakes hands with a man dressed as Santa Claus as he takes part in the 3rd annual march for unity and peace marking Christmas in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem.

Image 7 of 17Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad (C) shakes hands with a man dressed as Santa Claus as he takes part in the 3rd annual march for unity and peace marking Christmas in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem.

8

A Palestinian Christian boy wearing a Santa Claus costume waves during a ceremony ahead of Christmas attended by the head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fuad Twal, outside the Latin Catholic Church in Gaza City.

Image 8 of 17A Palestinian Christian boy wearing a Santa Claus costume waves during a ceremony ahead of Christmas attended by the head of the Roman Catholic Church in the Holy Land, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fuad Twal, outside the Latin Catholic Church in Gaza City.

9

A Palestinian policeman stands guard as Nigerian worshippers cross a street near the Church of the Nativity in the Biblical West Bank city of Bethlehem, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, as the Holy Land prepares to mark Christmas.

Image 9 of 17A Palestinian policeman stands guard as Nigerian worshippers cross a street near the Church of the Nativity in the Biblical West Bank city of Bethlehem, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, as the Holy Land prepares to mark Christmas.

10

Arab-Israeli women walk past stalls selling Christmas decorations at a market in the Arab-Israeli town of Nazareth.

Image 10 of 17Arab-Israeli women walk past stalls selling Christmas decorations at a market in the Arab-Israeli town of Nazareth.

11

Israeli women pose for a picture with a Palestinian man dressed as Santa Claus standing between Christmas trees at a municipality distribution point at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem's old city, ahead of Christmas celebrations.

Image 11 of 17Israeli women pose for a picture with a Palestinian man dressed as Santa Claus standing between Christmas trees at a municipality distribution point at Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem's old city, ahead of Christmas celebrations.

12

Sudan's First Vice President and south Sudan leader Salva Kiir (seated L) attends the Christmas service at the Juba Catholic Cathedral, in the southern Sudan's capital city, in what may be their last Christmas in a unified Sudan.

Image 12 of 17Sudan's First Vice President and south Sudan leader Salva Kiir (seated L) attends the Christmas service at the Juba Catholic Cathedral, in the southern Sudan's capital city, in what may be their last Christmas in a unified Sudan.

13

South Sudanese attend a Christmas service at the Juba Catholic cathedral, in the southern Sudan's capital city, in what may be their last Christmas in a unified Sudan.

Image 13 of 17South Sudanese attend a Christmas service at the Juba Catholic cathedral, in the southern Sudan's capital city, in what may be their last Christmas in a unified Sudan.

14

South Sudanese gather following the Christmas service at the Juba Catholic Cathedral, in the southern Sudan's capital city.

Image 14 of 17South Sudanese gather following the Christmas service at the Juba Catholic Cathedral, in the southern Sudan's capital city.

15

Iraqi Chaldean Catholics gather ouside the Cathedral of Kirkuk following Christmas day mass in northern Iraq.

Image 15 of 17Iraqi Chaldean Catholics gather ouside the Cathedral of Kirkuk following Christmas day mass in northern Iraq.

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Mainly Iraqi Kurd children gather to greet Santa Claus in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil on Christmas eve.

Image 16 of 17Mainly Iraqi Kurd children gather to greet Santa Claus in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil on Christmas eve.

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A shrine for Iraqi Christians who were killed in Al-Qaeda siege is erected at Sayidat alNejat Church in Baghdad  as Christmas for Iraqi Christian community will this year be a time of fear and cancelled celebrations instead of rejoicing following renewed threats by Al-Qaeda and the church massacre.

Image 17 of 17A shrine for Iraqi Christians who were killed in Al-Qaeda siege is erected at Sayidat alNejat Church in Baghdad as Christmas for Iraqi Christian community will this year be a time of fear and cancelled celebrations instead of rejoicing following renewed threats by Al-Qaeda and the church massacre.

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