Mon, December 20, 2010
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Bethlehem Christmas tree lighting

2010-12-20 02:31:53 GMT2010-12-20 10:31:53 (Beijing Time)

Crowds gather near Bethlehem for a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, as fireworks fill the sky and a marching band plays.

Fireworks burst overhead -- and below, crowds gather in a West Bank village near Bethlehem.

They're congregating after Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad lit a 32-foot Christmas tree.

Snare drums crack, trumpets blare, and bagpipes hum -- all to ring in the holiday season in Jesus' birthplace.

And above, the giant tree looms, a glowing star at its peak.

Bethlehem has seen a steady increase of tourism in recent years -- about two million people have visited since 2008.

The Israeli Tourism Ministry expects the arrival of around 90 thousand tourists from abroad over the Christmas period alone.

Travis Brecher, Reuters

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