BETHLEHEM, WEST BANK (AP) – Bethlehem began Thursday with a stream of joy marching bands on Christmas Eve and the triumphant arrival of top Catholic clergy in the Holy Land, but few were there for the coronovirus epidemic and congratulating them The strict lockout was celebrated in the traditional birthplace of Jesus.
Similar scenes were repeated around the world in the form of festive family celebrations and packed prayers, which usually marked the holiday or were canceled altogether due to coronovirus.
In Australia, worshipers had to book tickets online to attend socially perverted church services. The Philippines prohibited mass ceremonies and extended families from holding traditional Christmas Eve dinners. In Greece, traditional door-to-door children’s carols were canceled.
Pope Francis was set to celebrate Mass at an empty Vatican service near dusk as the new curfew rules went into effect.
The Italians lined up at bakeries, fish markets and grocery stores for essential items to prepare for Christmas Eve dinner, even with government officials begging families to hold their “Cenon” ceremonies of the main family unit Not limited to more than two people outside. The government banned travel between areas earlier this week, and police were out of enforcing the restrictions on Thursday.
Elsewhere in Europe the festivities were canceled or very few were withdrawn as the virus infection continued to grow throughout the continent and a new version that could be more contagious has been explored.
In Athens, Christmas Eve was silent. In normal times, the voices of children singing carol can be heard throughout the day while piercing metal triangles. The decades-old custom, in which children go from house to house and receive small gifts, was banned this year. The children’s group succeeded in honoring the tradition by singing a video link to Prime Minister Kyrikos Mitsotakis – with difficulty listening to students from a school for children who performed in sign language.
The government of North Macedonia banned outside ceremonies and ceremonies of more than four people at home. Hotels and restaurants are not allowed to hold New Year celebrations, and bars and restaurants will have to close until 20 January on 6 January.
Health Minister Venko Flip said in a Facebook post, ‘Parties can wait, health cannot.’
In Bethlehem, the authorities tried to get the most out of the bad situation.
“Christmas is a holiday that renews hope in spirits,” Mayor Anton Salman said. “Despite all the obstacles and challenges caused by Corona and the lack of tourism, the city of Bethlehem is still looking to the future with optimism.”
The rain, the rainy season, added to the gloomy atmosphere, as dozens gathered in central Manger Square to greet the Latin Friendship Pierbatista Pizaballa. The youth marching band playing Christmas carols on the bagpipe, accompanied by drummers, led the procession before the arrival of the ancestral side in the afternoon.
“We want to celebrate as much as possible with family, community and happiness, despite restrictions and limitations,” said Pizaballa, who was to lead a small midnight mass gathering in the evening. “We want to offer hope.”
Thousands of foreign pilgrims usually come to Bethlehem for the celebration. But with the closure of Israel’s international airport for foreign tourists, Israeli-occupied West Bank with Palestinian sanctions banned intercity travel in areas that kept visitors away.
The restrictions included the presence of dozens of residents and a small group of religious officials. The evening festivities, when pilgrims usually hover around the Christmas tree, were canceled, and the Midnight Mass was limited to the priests.
Coronoviruses have suffered a major setback during the lifetime of Bethlehem’s tourism sector, the local economy. Restaurants, hotels and gift shops have been closed.
Elsewhere, there was little holiday cheer for tourism-dependent Thailand, as virus cases in the country have increased unexpectedly, despite strict border controls that effectively prevented travelers from entering the state is.
Christmas and New Year holidays are typically extreme seasons for tropical country hotels, restaurants, bars and often the best-of-the-best entertainment spots. Many of those businesses have either gone out of business or they have decided that it is also worth opening.
Shopping malls, which overshadowed foreign tourists, created artificial Christmas trees. Some hotels that were left open are putting on their usual buffets for resident expats and members of Thailand’s Maynild Elite.
But in recent days any hopes of a return to normalcy were dashed as the country recorded a new set of over 1,000 cases. Officials responded by announcing new restrictions in Bangkok and other areas which included canceling the celebration of New Year’s Eve.
The people of Australia looked forward to a relatively COVID-19-free Christmas after travel restrictions on state borders were relaxed in recent weeks in the absence of any evidence of community broadcasting. But holiday plans were put into chaos when three cases were discovered on 17 December, exposing a new cluster in northern Sydney. As additional cases were revealed, states again closed their borders.
North Queensland resident Peta Johnson was preparing to welcome her recently widowed father from Sydney. Travel restrictions have halted travel until February.
“He is completely discouraged because he wants to spend some time with us and take a break from Sydney and all that is going on,” he said.
Churches were required to reserve tickets for services to worshipers. Brett Mendez, a Perth archdiocese spokesman, said St. Mary’s Catholic Cathedral would limit services to 650 worshipers, more than half the normal level.
While many locations around the world were creating or increasing restrictions for Christmas, Lebanon was an exception. With the tigers largely destroyed in the August 4 explosion and its economy in parts of its capital, Lebanon has taken most of the virus measures ahead of the holiday, hoping to encourage spending. Thousands of Lebanese expatriates have come home for the holidays, anticipating an inevitable increase in cases during the festive season.
Lebanon has the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East – about a third of its 5 million people – and traditionally celebrate Christmas with great pomp.
A huge Christmas tree in downtown Beirut is decorated with firefighters’ uniforms to commemorate those who died in the harbor explosion. Another tree represents the ancient houses of Beirut destroyed in the explosion.
“The people around us were tired, depressed and discouraged, so we said let’s just put a drop of joy and love,” said Sevin Aris, one of the organizers of the roadside Christmas Fair on the seaside where the explosion Caused the most damage.
Federman reported from Jerusalem. Nicole Winfield in Rome, Adam Shrek in Bangkok, Rod McGirik in Canberra, Ninik Karamini in Jakarta, Zeena Karim in Beirut, Constantin Testorides in Skopje, North Macedonia and Nicholas Paphitis in Athens contributed to the reporting.