Hundreds of Orthodox Christian worshippers are gathering in Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas Eve.
After a rainy night, the local patriarch of the Greek Orthodox church led worshippers under bright skies in a procession toward the Church of the Nativity, built on the traditional spot of Jesus' birth.
Orthodox Christian leaders will lead midnight mass in the church late Friday.
Most Eastern churches celebrate Christmas Eve on Jan. 6.
One Greek Orthodox worshipper stayed home this Christmas: Irineos I, the previous Greek Orthodox patriarch, who was deposed in 2005 over allegations he sold church properties to Jews.
He denies the charges and remains in his tiny apartment in the church's Jerusalem compound, afraid senior church officials will expel him if he leaves.