Bethlehem Christmas tree lighting

Crowds gather near Bethlehem for a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, as fireworks fill the sky and a marching band plays.

bethlehem xmas 311 (photo credit: Reuters)
bethlehem xmas 311
(photo credit: Reuters)
Fireworks burst overhead -- and below, crowds gather in a West Bank village near Bethlehem.
They're congregating after Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad lit a 32-foot Christmas tree.
Snare drums crack, trumpets blare, and bagpipes hum -- all to ring in the holiday season in Jesus' birthplace.
And above, the giant tree looms, a glowing star at its peak.
Bethlehem has seen a steady increase of tourism in recent years -- about two million people have visited since 2008.
The Israeli Tourism Ministry expects the arrival of around 90 thousand tourists from abroad over the Christmas period alone.