COVID-19 recommendations may limit Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem

Coronavirus

Palestinian Christians celebrate the lighting of a Christmas tree outside the Church of the Nativity, traditionally believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, in 2019. The Palestinian Health Ministry has recommended strict limits on Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem this year due to the coronavirus outbreak. Celebrations in the biblical town revered by Christians as Jesus’ birthplace are usually attended by thousands of people from around the world. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — The Palestinian Health Ministry has recommended strict limits on Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem this year due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Celebrations in the biblical town revered by Christians as Jesus’ birthplace are usually attended by thousands of people from around the world. But this year, the ministry has recommended the Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Manger Square be limited to 50 people, with the lights of the tree and area restaurants closed at 9 p.m. throughout the Christmas season.

It also says religious services on Christmas Eve should have limited attendance.

If the recommendations are accepted, it would mean another blow to the fragile Bethlehem economy, which relies heavily on the Christmas season.

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