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BETHLEHEM has announced they’re toning down their Christmas celebrations this year as the dark shadow of the war in Gaza still looms large over the city.
For the first time in decades officials have announced the iconic Christmas tree and other decorations will be “without the fanfare and without too many lights,” this festive period.
Jesus’ birthplace has announced the usual decorations for the city will be taken down and the normal cheery celebrations wont go ahead “in honour of the martyrs and in solidarity with our people in Gaza”.
The shock move means there will be no huge tree put up or many decorative lights in Nativity Square – the exact spot Jesus was said to be born in.
Father Francesco Patton of the Custody of the Holy Land church group said: “We will celebrate in sobriety. That means without the fanfare and without too many lights, in the most spiritual way and more (among) families than in the square.”
Bethlehem is nextdoor to Jerusalem in the fiery West Bank that’s seen devastating airstrikes and been battered in the Israeli-Hamas clashes in recent weeks just 30 miles away.
This is the first time they’ve seemingly “cancelled Christmas” since the modern celebrations began as even during the Covid-19the square was still decorated.
A spokesman for the Bethlehem municipality confirmed that the normal plans for Christmas have been completely scrapped ahead of December 25.
The spokesman said: “The reason is the general situation in Palestine; people are not really into any celebration, they are sad, angry and upset; our people in Gaza are being massacred and killed in cold blood.”
Due to the rich religious, Christians from all around the world go on a pilgrimage to Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity to celebrate the birth of Christ.
However, since Hamas’ brutal Oct 7 massacre and the horrors of war in Gaza, the town has been empty of visitors and sat neglected in a usual bustling town.
Father Ibrahim Faltas, a senior Franciscan friar said: “We have never seen Bethlehem like this, not even during the time of COVID. The town is empty, sad.”
Faltas said that the people of Palestine were still suffering from the pain of the war and the “many children, women, the elderly, the people who were martyred in this crazy war”.
The seven day truce between Hamas terrorists and Israel saw 110 hostages released from their kidnap hell – including 78 women and children.
This was a sign of hope for some in Bethlehem that the bloody war was showing signs of slowly ending so there holy land could go back to a happy, friendly spot for Christians across the globe.
However deadly violence quickly started up again hours after the ceasefire ended with the IDF thought to have carried out 200 destructive air strikes across the first 24 hours.
Families living in Gaza have been caught in the brutal crossfire since the start of the war, with regular accusations that the terrorists are attempting to use them as “human shields”.
Much of the northern part of the strip has been turned into a devastated warzone – with ruined buildings, dwindling supplies and horrific suffering for Gaza’s people.