Only meters away from where baby Jesus is said to be born, thousands of people made their way to Manger Square and gathered around the gigantic Christmas tree, to welcome in the holiest month of the Christian year – December.
Locals and foreigners, wrapped up in their coats and beanies, listened to speeches from the likes of the Mayor of Bethlehem, and the Prime Minister, Rami Hamdallah, with many others including top officials from the Catholic church, such as Father Francesco Patton.
Leading up to the lighting of the square, there were also musical performances and creative nativity videos.
The square went dark, the countdown started and then the tree was set aglow, along with a sparkling fireworks display.
The event was a chance to bring tourists in to the city and also to convey a political message through this year’s Christmas message of ‘being and existence’. Manger Square will be lit up and dazzling its visitors for the entire month, as a steadfast message from Prime Minister Hamdallah that despite Israel’s attempts “to uproot us and strip us from our civilisation and history”, Palestinians will continue to shine bright.