BETHLEHEM, Palestinian Territory, December 24, 2021 (AFP) – Billions of people prepare to celebrate Christmas again this Friday in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, as the Omicron edition instigated new restrictions affecting family gatherings .
For the second year in a row, when vaccines seemed to offer more promising horizons, the surge in infections represented a bucket of cold water at parties.
Pope Francis celebrated the traditional Christmas Eve Mass at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome this Friday – all masked and seated in the distance, according to the Press Office of the Holy See. In 2020, only 200 were able to participate.
In his sermon, the pontiff appeals to humility, inviting believers and the Church to abandon greed and “rediscover the little things in life”.
According to Christian tradition, the hotel sector waiting for tourists to arrive in Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus, is disappointed. After nearly complete imprisonment last year, Israel has closed its borders again.
The Scouts held their traditional parade in the historic area of the city. The sound of drums and harmonica brought some joy to the Praça do Presepio, located next to the Basilica of the Nativity.
As of 2020, the midnight mass will be reserved for a small number of believers by invitation only.
The procession, led by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Pierbattista Pizzaballa, is expected to attract more spectators than last year, partly due to loosened restrictions.
Overall, the celebration will be quieter than in 2020, when the first vaccines were introduced. In the United States, millions of people travel across the country to be reunited with their families.
But the pandemic hasn’t gone away: The Dutch are in captivity, Broadway has canceled shows, Peru has banned family gatherings and Christmas parties, while Spain has resumed the mandatory use of masks on the streets.
France set another record for infections this Friday, with more than 94,000 cases in a day, and in the United Kingdom, a historic record: 122,000 new cases of COVID-19 in 24 hours.
In this context, the British Prime Minister recommended that citizens receive a booster dose of the vaccine as a gift to their loved ones.
– “A Fragment of Hope”—Australians, the first to celebrate Christmas, can travel and visit relatives for the first time since the start of the pandemic, despite a registered contagion record.
Sydney Catholic Archbishop Anthony Fisher said: “We’ve all seen similar scenes of people reuniting at airports after months of separation.”
In Moscow, at a time of tension with Western countries over Ukraine, Vladimir Putin asked “Ded Moroz” (Grandfather Ice, Russian Santa Claus) to help Russia complete its projects.
“I hope that not only does it deliver gifts, but it also fulfills the projects of the country and each of its citizens,” the president said.
After months of anticipation with vaccination, the emergence of the Omicron variant has affected many countries.
On the Netflix streaming platform, the most popular film at the moment isn’t the typical Christmas production, but “Unforgivable” starring Sandra Bullock and about the redemption of an ex-convict.
The New York Times bestseller list includes books on identity and slavery. And on Spotify, “All I Want for Christmas Is You” was dropped from the most listened-to list for a song about an abusive breakup.
– Active ‘Current Operations’ – Airlines have canceled more than 2,000 flights worldwide due to the proliferation of the Omicron variant, a quarter of which are in the United States.
According to the FlightAware website, there were at least 2,116 flight cancellations this Friday at 15:40 GMT (12:45 GMT), of which 499 were linked to the United States, both international and domestic.
But the difficulties arising from the seemingly endless crisis will not prevent Santa Claus from doing his job.
Canada opened its airspace to Santa Claus after he presented a vaccination certificate and a negative test, the transport ministry said.
The entire crew of Santa’s sleigh got the green light, including Rudolph, whose “nose was red but no Covid-19 symptoms were detected before takeoff”.
The same happened in Australia. “Our air traffic controllers will use our surveillance technology to guide Santa Claus to ensure he and his reindeer are safe and on track to deliver gifts,” the Air Safety Authority said.
“You are authorized to fly 500 feet (150 meters) to reach rooftops and deliver your gifts quickly and carefully. After all, your magic sled is no ordinary plane.”
The New York Times Company