British Queen Elizabeth II praised people for “taking on the challenges of the year beautifully” during her annual Christmas Day message.
In her address to the nation on Friday, she described how people of all faiths were unable to celebrate festivals, such as Passover, Easter, Eid and Baisakhi, in their usual manner due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But she added how “moved” she had been by the minds of people in the face of adversity.
“Remarkably, a year that has necessarily separated people has, in many ways, brought us closer together,” she said. “Across the Commonwealth, my family and I have been inspired by stories of people volunteering in their communities, helping those in need.
“In the UK and around the world people have taken on the challenges of the year beautifully, and I am so proud and moved by this calm and indomitable spirit. To our young people in particular, I say thank you for the role you have played.
“Today our frontline services still shine for us – backed by the astonishing achievements of modern science – and we owe them a debt of gratitude,” she added.
Here’s how different countries celebrate the holiday:
In the Palestinian city of Bethlehem, people celebrated Christmas Eve with only a small number attending traditional events. But city leaders said they were determined to send a message of hope.
“There are restrictions on the movement of people and on social media but it’s Christmas, Christmas gives people hope for better days,” said Mayor Anton Salman, standing next to the huge Christmas tree. Christmas in Place Manger.
“So we are celebrating the holidays by all means, the only thing missing at this point is the big crowd, as was the case in previous years, but the people of Bethlehem are optimistic that the future will be better.”
Latin Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa led the Christmas Day Mass on Friday in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, as the biblical city celebrated the feast in a subdued atmosphere.
In Lebanon, the government lifted most virus measures before the holidays, hoping to stimulate the economy. Tens of thousands of Lebanese expatriates have returned home for the holidays, but some feared this could lead to an increase in cases during the holiday season.
Lebanon has the largest percentage of Christians in the Middle East – around a third of its 5 million people – and traditionally celebrates Christmas with great fanfare.
Egypt canceled all New Year’s celebrations to stem an increase in cases.
Meanwhile, celebrations in Europe have been canceled or drastically reduced as viral infections increase across the continent amid fears of a new, more infectious variant.
In the UK, people greeted Christmas Eve with a Brexit trade deal, the news received with relief and, by some, a dash of skepticism.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson posted a video on his Twitter account delivering his Christmas message. Waving the thick stack of papers documenting the Brexit trade deal with the European Union (EU) in front of the cameras, Johnson said it was a “little gift for anyone looking for something at read in that sleeping moment after Christmas lunch ”.
I wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. pic.twitter.com/DofRkb4Ivc
– Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) December 24, 2020
In Italy, church bells rang earlier than usual. The Italian government curfew at 10 p.m. (9 a.m. GMT) prompted pastors to ramp up services, with a “midnight” mass starting Thursday night in some churches hours after dark.
In Vatican City, Pope Francis, who has just celebrated his 84th birthday, lined up and celebrated a mass in a rear part of St. Peter’s Basilica with less than 100 participants and only a small number of cardinals and bishops.
On Friday, he called on countries to share COVID-19 vaccines, saying walls of nationalism cannot be built to stop a pandemic that knows no borders. Francis delivered his traditional “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world) message virtually from a desk inside the Vatican.
“At this moment in history, marked by the ecological crisis and the serious economic and social imbalances which only worsen the coronavirus pandemic, it is all the more important for us to recognize ourselves as brothers and sisters”, did he declare.
He also highlighted the plight of children caught up in the war, targeting victims in Syria, Yemen and Iraq.
In Greece, Christmas Eve was eerily silent. Normally, children’s voices singing Christmas carols while jingling metal triangles can be heard throughout the day. The decades-old custom of children going from house to house and receiving small gifts was banned this year.
Groups of children have managed to honor the tradition by singing to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis via video link – including students from a school for hearing impaired children who performed in sign language.
Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to avoid visiting family members on Christmas and to use video calls instead for greetings, as military personnel serving overseas are doing as the country struggles against COVID. Germany grapples with an increase in coronavirus infections and deaths.
In South Korea, people woke up on Christmas morning to learn their coronavirus crisis had taken another turn for the worse as authorities closed ski resorts and national parks, restricted hotel occupancy and imposed fines on restaurants accepting large groups to stop a viral wave that has increased occupancy and death rates.
The country has previously been touted as a model for fighting the virus, with the public largely following official guidelines, but on Friday recorded a record 1,241 new infections.
“We strongly recommend that you cancel all your meetings and gatherings, even with your immediate family members,” said Yoon Tae-ho of the central disaster management headquarters.
In China, authorities in the northeastern port city of Dalian are testing millions of residents after seven new cases of coronavirus were reported there in the past 24 hours.
The cluster that has emerged in recent days has grown to 12 cases. In five neighborhood divisions, authorities have closed schools and public spaces and are preventing anyone except essential workers from leaving their residential complexes.
Beijing is also on high alert after two asymptomatic cases were reported Thursday, in addition to the two cases confirmed last week.
In Australia, Millions of Sydney residents have been urged to limit their mobility over the Christmas holidays, with some families confined and festive gatherings limited to 10 visitors indoors.
Australia’s most populous city has been virtually isolated from the rest of the country with state border closures or a mandatory 14-day quarantine for arrivals in Sydney.
“Please limit your mobility,” New South Wales (NSW) Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian told reporters in Sydney on Thursday.
“Other than those close family gatherings, which we have allowed over the Christmas holidays, we don’t want people to come out unless you absolutely have to. “
In the United States, Americans are celebrating a gloomy Christmas as coronavirus infections have exploded across the country. Political leaders have warned people against moving or gathering in large groups.
More than a million people have received the first of two doses of the vaccine since Dec. 14, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Achieving herd immunity to the virus could require vaccination of up to 90% of Americans, Dr.Anthony Fauci, America’s foremost infectious disease expert, told The New York Times in an interview.
Mexico Thursday vaccinated his first person against COVID-19. The Pfizer vaccine was given to nurse Maria Irene Ramirez, 59, head nurse in the intensive care unit at Ruben Lenero Hospital in Mexico City.
“This is the best gift I could have received in 2020,” Ramirez said, adding that it would give him the strength to continue the “war” on the pandemic.
Chile received the first 10,000 doses of an order of 10 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines on Thursday, with inoculations to health workers to begin immediately.
In Costa Rica, health workers administered the first doses of the Pfizer vaccine to two elderly people at a house near the capital, San José, while some 300,000 doses of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine reached Argentina.
“My message is that everyone should be vaccinated,” said Jorge De Ford, a 72-year-old former university professor who was one of the first two people in Costa Rica to receive the injection.
Meanwhile at Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro took advantage of his Christmas message to further cast doubt on a vaccine against the coronavirus purchased by one of the country’s states, from the Chinese biopharmaceutical firm Sinovac.
In his live social media show Thursday, Bolsonaro said that “the effectiveness of this vaccine from Sao Paulo appears to be very low,” although he added no specific details.
Brazil has so far no agreement to import vaccines manufactured by Pfizer or Moderna, which have been approved by the United States and other countries. He has reached an agreement to obtain up to 100 million doses of the potential vaccine produced by AstraZeneca.