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Christians across the world have begun celebrating Christmas with services.

Pope Francis is holding midnight mass at the Vatican.

In the holy city of Bethlehem, the West Bank town where it is believed that Jesus was born, events have been overshadowed by recent violence between Palestinians and Israelis.

Indonesia was one of the first countries to mark Christmas Day.

Photo AFP/Getty Images

Photo AFP/Getty Images

Celebrations are taking place in the West Bank town where it is believed that Jesus was born.

However, this year they are overshadowed by the latest Israeli-Palestinian violence that shows no signs of abating.

Shepherds watching their flocks by night are believed by Christians to have been the first to hear about Jesus’ birth. Tradition has it that they were told the news by an angel in the Shepherds’ Field in Beit Sahur, next to Bethlehem.

According to the Bible, there was no room at the inn in Bethlehem for Mary and Joseph. With no bed available, baby Jesus was laid in a manger.

The Nativity story tells how wise men, or magi, came to pay their homage to Jesus bringing him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.


Somalia’s government has decided to ban Christmas celebration in the country, warning that such Christian festivities could threaten the nation’s Muslim faith.

An official at the religious affairs ministry said: “Those celebrations are not in any way related to Islam.”

Security agencies have been directed to stay alert to stop any gatherings.Christmas banned in Somalia

Foreigners are free to mark the Christian holiday in their own homes, but hotels and other public places have been prohibited from marking the day.

Local media quote Mohamed Kheyrow, a top official at Somalia’s justice and religious affairs ministry, as saying: “Having Muslims celebrate Christmas in Somalia is not the right thing, such things are akin to the abandonment.”

Correspondents say as Somalia recovers from years of civil war, a growing number of Somalis who grew up in the diaspora are returning home, some of them bringing Western customs with them.

Christmas is not widely celebrated in Somalia, which officially adopted Sharia in 2009, but the odd event was held – especially as an excuse to hold a party.

Christmas celebrations will be allowed at UN compounds and bases for African Union peacekeepers, who are in the country to back the government’s fight against the al-Qaeda-linked militants.