No checkpoints for him: Santa Claus comes to town in Palestine
With 45,000 lights and 6,500 baubles adorning its central tree, it comes as no surprise that Christmas in Bethlehem will be as loud and proud as ever this year.
This very traditional place faces a slew of obstacles to put on its celebrations each year but overcoming checkpoints, poverty and even religion, is part and parcel of life in the West Bank city.
The all-important ceremonies will of course take place in the Church of the Nativity and Manger Square but a big dose of Christmas cheer can also be found in the predominantly Muslim Palestinian refugee camps.
Many may suspect that festive fun in the iconic site of Jesus' birth is a Christian-only affair but Muslims have been getting in on the action too. In the "spirit of sharing," General Director of Bethlehem's Al Rowwad Cultural and Theatre Center for Children, Abdelfattah Abusrour, says Muslims will be leading a number of the festivities.
The theatre center, which works with children in Aida camp, north of Bethlehem, will be entertaining the masses with a four minute Christmas sketch. While families in the western world tune into 'A Christmas Carol' or 'It's a Wonderful Life', the people of Bethlehem will be watching teenagers from Aida and other local refugee camps perform live for the cameras.
However, this is the Middle East not the Mid-West and politics are never far away. While Aida's refugee teens will be celebrating the day with a special appearance by Santa Claus, they will also be portraying the recent Gaza/Israel conflict on stage.
Palestinian children face serious travel restrictions even inside the Palestinian-Authority-controlled West Bank but Christmas is no time to think about checkpoints and the Rowwad Cultural Center is attempting to put a different light on the festive season, with a 'play bus' spreading hand made games across the camps and along the street of Bethlehem.
Not happy letting the locals have all the fun, people across the globe are flocking to Bethlehem to get a slice of the merriment. According to local tour company, Laila Tours, even Israelis are swinging by to see what all the fuss is about.
Will you be heading to Palestine for Christmas? Are you happy to see Muslims at this Christian celebration? Tell us what you think below.
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