BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Eastern Christian denominations following the Orthodox calendar welcomed archbishops and patriarchs to celebrate Christmas Eve on Wednesday
outside of Jesus Christ's traditional birthplace at the Nativity Church in Bethlehem.
Hundreds of Palestinians affiliated to the Orthodox, Assyrian, Coptic and Ethiopian churches arrived to Manger Square to mark the occasion.
The Orthodox Assyrian parade of the holy lands and Archbishop of Jordan Mor Severios Malke Murad arrived Friday morning to participate in midnight mass, which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was also expected to attend.
Major General Jibrin al-Bakri of Bethlehem, Minister of Tourism Rula Maiyaa, and Mayor of Bethlehem Vera Baboun, along with many other official and religious figures, welcomed the start of the parade.
This year’s Christmas celebration came as a slight reprieve from Israeli violations -- characterized by severe restrictions on Palestinian movement and what rights groups have called the ‘extrajudicial’ killings of Palestinians by Israeli forces -- that have occurred since violence erupted across the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel in October 2015, which forced organizers last year to scale down Christmas celebrations.
Many Palestinian Christians have chosen to emigrate abroad following nearly half a century of Israel's military occupation which has had a crippling effect on the Palestinian economy and Palestinian right to movement.