Bethlehem Sees Largest Turnout Since 2000
BETHLEHEM, West Bank - Holiday spirit returned to Bethlehem on Saturday for the first time in six years as thousands of foreigners and local people packed the town of Jesus' birth for Christmas Eve celebrations.
Lining the streets on a crisp, windy day, pilgrims gathered in Manger Square near the Church of the Nativity _ built over the grotto where tradition says Jesus was born _ to watch a procession of marching bands, bagpipe players and boy scout troops.
They also watched Jerusalem's Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the top Roman Catholic official in the Holy Land, enter town for the Christmas celebrations.
Whipping winds blew the hats off boy scouts and police officers and knocked down metal security barriers. Yet the streets were packed with visitors excited about spending the holiday in one of Christianity's holiest sites.