Pilgrims from around the world flocked to Bethlehem, where Christian tradition says Jesus was born, for Christmas Eve celebrations.
Christmas carols are wafting through Manger Square here in Bethlehem in what has been the best turnout in years for pilgrims.
Thousands have come from around the world to visit the grotto in the ancient Church of the Nativity, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ.
A lull in Israeli-Palestinian violence has prompted pilgrims to return and they are braving a cold rain to get here.
Observances began when the latin patriarch led a solemn procession into the Church of the Nativity. Monks and priests in white robes sang Gregorian chant as the marched in a fragrant cloud of incense.
Palestinians in Bethlehem have mixed feelings. They say Israel's separation barrier on the edge of town has locked them in a prison. But at the same time they are glad to see the pilgrims coming back.