Leaving Christmas in Pakistan behind us, we now head west for 3,236km to Palestinian Territories (West Bank and Gaza strip) to learn about their Christmas celebrations.
The bible references a lot of places in Palestinian Territories so is of religious importance to a number of religions.
A troubled region of the world due to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Palestinian Territories still attracts people from all over the world. There's a number of Banksy artworks from his visit there in 2017 - and even more notable is the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem that was financed by Banksy and overlooks the Bethlehem Wall. The media has referred to the hotel as having the worst view in the world!
Palestinian Territories has a population of more than 4.4 million people and covers an area of 6,220 square km.
One of the most important exports of Palestinian Territories is olives/olive oil. The olive farming industry is thriving in an otherwise struggling economy. Olive trees have been growing in the region for thousands of years so many of the population connect olives to their country's heritage.
So, how do they celebrate Christmas in Palestinian Territories?
In Palestinian Territories, Christmas is celebrated on 25th December in the Roman Catholic church and 6th/7th January in the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic churches.
20% of the population are Christian which is split between Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian Apostolic Churches.
The streets and the main square are decorated with Christmas lights.
Bethlehem (where Jesus is claimed to have been born) is within the Palestinian Territories. There’s a big parade through the town on Christmas Eve where bagpipes are played and people dressed as Santa Claus give out sweets.
In the Church of Nativity (church built on the spot Jesus was thought to have been born) there’s a famous church service called the Mass of the Nativity which is held on Christmas Eve. Many local political figures attend the service along with other Christians, Muslims and Jews. A lot of Frankincense is burnt throughout the service. Carols are sung in Manger Square, in front of the church, during the service on Christmas Eve.
The Greek Orthodox Church and Armenian Apostolic Church also hold services in the Church of Nativity but on their own Christmas Eve/Day (Jan 6th/7th).
The main Christmas meal is usually eaten on Christmas Eve. The main dish is barbequed meat including; kebabs, lamb chops, pork chops, lamb cutlets, and chicken steaks. A variety of salads are also eaten including; potato salad, tabouli (tomatoes, mint, onion, bulgur, and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper), and Arab salad. Mushrooms, French fries, and bread are also popular sides. There’s also kubba (grape leaves filled with rice and meat), sfiha (pie-like ground mutton dish), and a selection of savoury pastries. Spirits and fizzy drinks are common to have along with the meal. Also popular throughout the Christmas period are sweets, specifically chocolate Santas, some variations of which you can hang on your tree.
Our next destination looks at Christmas celebrations in the Philippines.