In regular, pandemic-free times, the northern city of Nazareth is probably the best place in Israel to get into the Christmas spirit: Its roads are lined with festive lights, the holiday market is packed with people, and delicious food and drink are happily consumed throughout.
This year is a whole other story, with Covid-19 regulations calling off hallmark events in favor of a more socially distanced season. And yet, Jesus’ hometown is doing its best to celebrate Christmas – and if these photos of babies in Santa onesies don’t get you into the holiday spirit, we don’t know what can.
“The atmosphere is here; nothing can change that. There’s the atmosphere, the lights, the Christmas tree. But there’s no activities,” explains Sharif Sharif-Safadi, director-general of Nazareth municipality.
Usually, the city is host to a Christmas parade that sees some 150,000 people gathering in celebration. There are concerts, fireworks, a Christmas market, mass prayers and packed hotels and restaurants. None of it will be happening this year.
“We can’t have activities that involve big gatherings and we can’t do what’s been done in the past, but we have done what we can, which is lighting and Christmas trees,” Sharif-Safadi says.
“Still, Israelis can come here and feel the holiday in Nazareth – just not like they used to, because of the situation,” he adds.
Meanwhile, at the Nazareth Hospital EMMS, efforts are underway to maintain the holiday spirit in the cutest way.
Staff at what’s locally known as the “English hospital” and the babies born there this past December got all dressed up for their holiday portrait, sending out a fun reminder of what Christmas is all about.
“Christmas is a time of happiness and celebration. This year we’re marking the holiday in the shadow of Covid-19, which isn’t simple, but we’re determined not to allow the situation to impede our happiness,” says the hospital’s director Prof. Fahed Hakim.
“There’s nothing more symbolic than celebrating the miracle of childbirth during a holiday with a birth at its center. I’m happy and excited for all the new parents of December and hope that we have a much better year than this last one we’ve been through.”