Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem get Virus again

BETHLEHEM (West Bank) -- On Friday, musicians played bagpipes and banged drums through Bethlehem to the delight and surprise of smaller crowds. This mix of conviviality and restraint was reflected in the celebrations all around the globe on Christmas Eve that was once again dampened by the coronavirus.

Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem get Virus again


International tourists were prevented from visiting the occupied West Bank because of restrictions Israel imposed on travel. This is the main entry point for foreigners heading to the West Bank. This ban on almost all non-Israeli tourists is intended to slow down the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Instead, authorities relied on the small Christian community of Holy Land to lift spirits.

It was a common theme that was seen all over the globe as revelers, tired from almost two years of safety restrictions and lockdowns, sought ways to return rituals that had been abandoned last year while still being able to celebrate safely in a time when there were many high-profile cases.

Rosalia Lopes (a former Portuguese government worker) said that the virus cannot take away our health when we are healthy. She was shopping last-minute in Cascais, on the coast.

She stated that she was exhausted from the pandemic, and was determined to continue with her celebrations. Safety measures such as vaccines and booster shots and rapid home tests were all available to help. She had planned to host a traditional Portuguese Christmas Eve dinner with baked cod.

She said, "We need to be careful, of course, but it's something we really look forward to,"

Holiday travel was hit hard by three major airlines: United, Lufthansa and Delta. They cancelled dozens of flights because of staff shortages that were largely linked to the omicron variant. In the United States, church services were reduced in Germany.

Some houses of worship in the United Kingdom hoped to continue their work despite the fact that omicron is currently ravaging the country.

The priests at St. Paul's Old Ford in East London planned to hold Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services. However, this decision will remain under constant review. To ensure that others could attend the service, clergy regularly tested themselves for COVID-19.

To protect parishioners, however, the church abandoned its nativity play.

The Rev. said, "You may have to cancel service, but Christmas can't be cancelled." April Keech is an associate priest. "You can't stop love. Love still stands."

This spirit was evident in Bethlehem where Mayor Anton Salman stated that the town is optimistic that 2021 will be better than last Christmas. Last year, lockdown restrictions meant that even residents had to stay home and marching bands marched through empty streets.

This year, hundreds of people gathered in the town's central Manger Square as a line of bagpipe-and-drum-playing bands streamed through the area. Later, Latin patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa (the top Roman Catholic clergyman of the Holy Land) waved at well-wishers while his motorcade made its way through the town.

He said that this year, "this year, we see a large number of people, very busy and a lot of joy," before entering the Church of the Nativity for Midnight Mass. The grotto is where Christians believe Jesus was born.

Before the pandemic began, Bethlehem was home to thousands of Christian pilgrims from all over the world. This brought a lot of joy to the town and added a great deal of energy to the local economy.

Israel lifted the ban on foreign tourists from the area for over a year and half in November. It was then forced to reimpose the ban as the omicron version began spreading worldwide.

Tourism is Bethlehem's lifeblood, and the absence of tourists has made it difficult for hotels, restaurants, and gift shops to survive.

Adil Abu Nayaf is the owner of a Manger Square food stall that was empty. "Under normal circumstances for this time of the year, I usually have an 20-meter (20-yards) queue outside."

Participants tried to make the most of a difficult situation. Billy Stuart, an employee of the British Consulate Jerusalem, stated that his experience in Bethlehem was positive, despite the small numbers.

He said, "The parade was amazing, and I didn't realize there were so many Palestinian pipers."

In Europe, where many countries are suffering from epidemics, celebrations were less intense, but they continued to grow.

Parisians gathered at farmers' markets, chocolate shops and testing centers across Paris. France has seen an increase in COVID-19-related hospitalizations and has posted record numbers. However, the government has resisted the urge to impose curfews or closures on holidays.

Fabienne Maksimovic (55), waited in line at a Paris pharmacy to be tested. It does impact our excitement to celebrate Christmas but it also makes us sad. We are certain that we won't contaminate or become contaminated. She said that everyone will take the test within their families.

Spain's mandatory face-covering outside was reinstated Friday by Andres Perez, a 19-year-old student. He and a group volunteer went out to give warm breakfasts to homeless people.

Perez said, "It's difficult to do it (wearing the mask), but that's better for us all." Perez's group brought a guitar to entertain homeless people with Christmas songs.

Germany had a lot of restrictions on attendance and health for churchgoers.

Frankfurt Cathedral, which can accommodate 1,200 people, only offered 137 spaces at distance. These were reserved days in advance. Only singing was permitted through the use of masks. Some churches required proof that they had been vaccinated or tested, in addition to strict limits on capacity and masking.

According to the DPA news agency, a line was drawn halfway around Cologne's cathedral for vaccinations. Guido Assmann, cathedral provost, stated that the offer of shots was an expression of care for one's neighbour and was in keeping with Christmas' message.

Many churches in the U.S. cancelled in-person services, including Washington National Cathedral, the nation's capital, and the Old South Church, Boston. Others planned outdoor celebrations, or mixed online and in person worship.

France is a country where people celebrate by visiting their loved ones in hospital. The intensive care unit at La Timone Hospital in Marseille has seen an increase in COVID-19-positive patients in the Mediterranean city.

Amelie Khayat, 41, has been visiting her husband Ludo every day. He is currently in recovery after spending 24 days in a hospital coma and on an oxygen machine. As she lay on his bed, they touched their heads and he gave her a goodbye hug.

A medical worker placed the final decorations on the ICU Christmas tree.

You need to login to comment.

Please register or login.