Jerusalem's Old City on Monday was set for the beginning of Christmas festivities, with free Christmas trees distributed by the municipality and pilgrims flocking the city's streets.
A cheerful bell-ringing Santa walked back and forth on the Old City's walls, calling on Christian residents to come pick out a tree free of charge.
"We wish the world and especially in Jerusalem, peace and health and safety. The reason for Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas. We wait for this Christmas tree to be green and good and nice-looking," Santa said while ringing his bell.
A resident who came to pick up trees, Yelena Kaminsky, said she hoped there will be "no war" in the coming year.
"We have now Christmas tree and we wait (for) Christmas, Merry Christmas. I want to speak for all the people, to the Holy Land and all the land, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and I very, very hope, I pray here, that in new year we don't have war," she said.
Jerusalem, which Christians believe to be the site of Jesus's crucifixion and resurrection, is a tourist attraction for tens of thousands of pilgrims each year.
But during the holiday season it is second to the West Bank city of Bethlehem, who prides itself with being the birth town of Christ.
On the morning of Christmas Eve, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fuad Twal, will leave Jerusalem at the head of a festive motorcade towards Bethlehem, where he will lead Christmas eve mass in the Church of Nativity.sign up to our newsletter