Christmas 2021 Around the World
The sun'll come out
Yesterday was Christmas, the Christian festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ. For some, it was a day of churchgoing and spiritual reflection. For others, it was a more secular holiday marked by gift-giving, charity, and time spent with loved ones. Observations varied across the world, from quiet religious ceremonies to raucous street parties or smaller gatherings of friends and families. Collected here are some glimpses of Christmas celebrations around the globe this year.
Hong Kong: Young children hold Christingles, meaning "Christ Lights", during a festive church service on Christmas Eve in Hong Kong, on December 24, 2013. The services derive from a Moravian custom of distributing lit candles to children on Christmas Eve in order to celebrate Christ, the light of the world. A Christingle is made of an orange, representing the world, with a red ribbon around it representing the blood of Jesus. Fruits and sweets are skewered onto cocktail sticks which are pushed into the orange representing the fruits of the earth and the four seasons. A lit candle is finally pushed into the center of the orange representing Christ, the light of the world.(Anthony Wallace/AFP/Getty Images)
Venice: People dressed in Santa Claus costumes row boats on the Venice canal, on December 21, 2013.
Hawaii: A Hawaiian Santa ornament sits atop a Christmas tree being decorated by Staci Kennedy, of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii, on December 25, 2013.
Indonesia: Christian worshipers attend a Christmas prayer in Surabaya, on December 25, 2013. Indonesian Christians celebrated Christmas amid a warning on December 12 from Indonesian police that Islamic extremists may be planning to target worshippers during Christmas and New Years celebrations in the capital Jakarta and other parts of the country.
Philippines: Children line up to receive a Christmas gift from volunteers near a giant lantern with the colors of the Philippine flag, in Tacloban, Philippines, on December 25, 2013. This year, Christmas is a celebration amid deprivation, in tents, makeshift homes and damaged churches in the city devastated by the November 8 typhoon Haiyan. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim) #
West Bank: Palestinian Christians participate in a morning Christmas mass at St. George Melkite Greek Catholic Church, in the West Bank village of Burqin near Jenin city, on December 25, 2013.
Belarus: Men wearing costumes of Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost), the Santa Claus in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, and women wearing costumes of Snegurochka (Snow Maiden), the traditional companion of Ded Moroz, march during their parade in Minsk on December 25, 2013. Iraq: Iraqi Christians attend a Christmas mass at the Mother Teresa Catholic Church in Basra, Iraq's second-largest city, 340 miles (550 kilometers) southeast of Baghdad, on Dec 25, 2013.
Archaeologists from the University of Reading believe they have found the lost Biblical town of Dalmanutha, believed to be a prosperous fishing hub
Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient bathtub in a first-century mansion that could have belonged to one of the priests who was responsible for Jesus' death, while another expedition has found a town where Jesus is believed to have stayed following the feeding of the 5,000 miracle.
The mansion, which houses the bathtub and is situated on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, would have belonged to wealthy owners, signified by its size and features such as intricate carvings, a luxurious oven and the bathtub, which is similar to others found in King Herod's palace and a priest's residence.
Archaeologists believe the mansion, which was built close to the walls of the Second Temple erected by King Herod, could have been home to one of Jesus' archenemies - a man belonging to the Sadducees class, which was typically wealthy, powerful and allied with the Romans.
Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient bathtub (pictured) in a first-century mansion. The bathtub is the biggest clue as to who lived in the house as two similar tubs were unearthed in Herod's palaces at Jericho and Masada , while a third was located at a priestly residence also in Jerusalem
The building is an example of an early Roman period mansion, which historians hope will yield plenty of domestic details abut the ruling classes of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. James Tabor, who specialises in early Christian history at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, told NBC News: 'We might be digging in the home of one of Jesus' archenemies.' Shimon Gibson, who is leading the expedition, believes the house could have belonged to the high priest Caiaphas or Annas but they were both members of the ruling priest class.
These ruins could be a mansion that was inhabited by one of the priests that condemned Jesus to death, according to archaeologists. The ruins are located on Jerusalem's Mount Zion close to the walls of the old city
The bathtub is the biggest clue as to who lived in the mansion as two similar tubs were unearthed in Herod's palaces at Jericho and Masada, while a third was located at a priest's house also in Jerusalem.
It is buried in a vaulted chamber adjacent to a large underground ritual cleansing pool called a mikveh and is only the fourth bathroom of its kind to be found in Israel.
Dr Gibson said: 'It is only a stone's throw away, and I wouldn't hesitate to say that the people who made that bathroom probably were the same ones who made this one. It's almost identical, not only in the way it's made, but also in the finishing touches, like the edge of the bath itself.'
The location of the mansion is a strong indication of a high-status resident.
The bathtub was found in a vaulted chamber adjacent to a large underground ritual cleansing pool called a mikveh (pictured). Little is known about the daily lives of priests at the time and archaeologists hope to build up a better picture of their lives from the newly-discovered mansion
Dr Tabor said: 'Whoever lived in this house would have been a neighbor and would have been able to pop into the palace.
'If this turns out to be the priestly residence of a wealthy first century Jewish family, it immediately connects not just to the elite of Jerusalem – the aristocrats, the rich and famous of that day – but to Jesus himself.
'These are the families who had Jesus arrested and crucified, so for us to know more about them and their domestic life and the level of wealth that they enjoyed, would really fill in for us some key history.'
The team hopes to learn more about the household activities that might have been undertaken by priests at the time, as there are very few historical reports about their activities outside the holy temples in Jerusalem.
Dr Tabor also believes that the details of the first-century Jewish ruling class could provide fresh insights into New Testament history.
The mansion would have belonged to wealthy owners, signified by its size and features such as intricate carvings and a luxurious oven (pictured). Archaeologists believe the mansion could have been home to one of Jesus' archenemies - a man belonging to the Sadducees class
He said: 'Jesus, in fact, criticises the wealth of this class. He talks about their clothing and their long robes and their finery and in a sense, pokes fun at it. So for us to get closer to understanding that, to supplement the text, could be really fascinating.'
The archaeologists also found plenty of animal bones and cooking pots inside a cistern some 10 metres deep, which could have become a makeshift hiding place for Jewish residents during the Roman siege that led to the City's destruction in 70AD.
A Roman historian said over 2,000 bodies were found underground in similar cisterns and many of the occupants had died of starvation.
Dr Gibson said: 'We still need to look at this material very carefully and be absolutely certain of our conclusions, but it might be that these are the remnants of a kitchen in use by Jews hiding from the Romans -- their last resort was to go into these cisterns.
The archaeologists also found plenty of animal bones and cooking pots inside a cistern some 10 metres deep, which could have become a makeshift hiding place for Jewish residents during the Roman siege that led to the City's destruction in 70AD
'It was a common practice, but this conclusion is theoretical. It makes for a very good story and it does look that way, but we’ve got to be certain.'
Archaeologists believe this particular residence survived because of its location after the city was ruined.
Mount Zion was left unoccupied until around 400 AD and the beginning of the Byzantine period, when people simply built on top of older walls.
Around 200 years later Dr Gibson believes what remained of the house was covered with landfill material from the construction of a church called Nea Ekklesia of the Theotokos near the site.
He said: 'The area got submerged. The early Byzantine reconstruction of these two-story Early Roman houses then got buried under rubble and soil fills. Then they established buildings above it. That's why we found an unusually well-preserved set of stratigraphic levels.'
The Ginosar Valley in Israel. Archaeologists found pottery remains, tesserae and architectural fragments indicating a town flourished in the area from the second or first century BC. They think Jesus could have rested after performing the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 at an ancient town near this site
A separate group of Archaeologists have uncovered an ancient town on the northwest coast of the Sea of Galilee, which they believe was where Jesus rested after performing the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000, where he is said to have fed a large group of people with less than seven loaves of bread and two fish.
The town is 2,000-years-old, situated in Israel's Ginosar Valley and is thought to be 'Dalmanutha', which is described in the Gospel of Mark as the location of Jesus' next journey after the miracle, Live Science reported.
The town is only mentioned once in the Gospel of Mark, which states that after feeding 5,000 people Jesus sailed to Dalmanutha, where he was questioned by the Pharisees and aked to provide a sign from heaven.
Roman column fragments lying on the side of a road in the modern-day town of Migdal are thought to be part of a newfound ancient town. Locals use artefacts as garden ornaments in the modern town
Ken Dark, of the University of Reading, who led the archaeological team, believes the town was prosperous in ancient times due to the vessel glasses and amphora discovered.
The team said a 2,000-year-old boat found in 1986 on a shoreline nearby, adds to the picture of a thriving town.
Writing in the journal Palestine Exploration Quarterly, he said: 'stone anchors along with the access to beaches suitable for landing boats and of course, the first-century boat…all imply an involvement with fishing'.
The team thinks the town survived for a number of centuries as hundreds of pieces of pottery from as early as the first century BC as well as later pieces from the Byzantine Empire were scattered between the modern town of Migdal and the coast.
They also found cubes called tesserae associated with Jewish practices in the early Roman period, suggesting a Jewish community lived there, as well as basalt ashlar blocks used as garden ornaments in the modern town, which they believe were found in the local area and probably the newly-discovered town.
Key finds include Corinthian column pieces and a pagan altar made of light grey limestone.
Constantine's church was built as two connected churches over the two different holy sites, including a great basilica (the Martyrium visited by Egeria in the 380s), an enclosed colonnaded atrium (the Triportico) with the traditional site of Golgotha in one corner, and arotunda, called the Anastasis ("Resurrection"), which contained the remains of a rock-cut room that Helena and Macarius identified as the burial site of Jesus. The rockface at the west end of the building was cut away, although it is unclear how much remained in Constantine's time, as archaeological investigation has revealed that the temple of Aphrodite reached far into the current rotunda area, and the temple enclosure would therefore have reached even further to the west.
According to tradition, Constantine arranged for the rockface to be removed from around the tomb, without harming it, in order to isolate the tomb; in the centre of the rotunda is a small building called the Kouvouklion (Kουβούκλιον; Modern Greek for small compartment) or Aedicule(from Latin: aediculum, small building), which supposedly encloses this tomb, although it is not currently possible to verify the claim, as the remains are completely enveloped by a marble sheath. The discovery of the kokhim tombs just beyond the west end of the Church, and more recent archaeological investigation of the rotunda floor, suggest that a narrow spur of at least ten yards length would have had to jut out from the rock face if the contents of the Aedicule were once inside it. The dome of the rotunda was completed by the end of the 4th century.
Each year, the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates the anniversary of the consecration of the Church of the Resurrection (Holy Sepulchre) on September 13 (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian calendar, September 13 currently falls on September 26 of the modern Gregorian calendar).
Dead sea scrolls go up for sale as family sells off fragments it secretly stashed in a Swiss safety deposit box
Nearly 70 years after the discovery of the world's oldest biblical manuscripts, the Palestinian family who originally sold them to scholars and institutions is has begun selling fragments it kept hidden in a Swiss safe deposit box.
Most of these scraps are barely postage-stamp-sized, and some are blank.
But in the last few years, evangelical Christian collectors and institutions have spent millions buying parts of the archaeological treasure.
A Rabbi studies one of the 'Scrolls from the Dead Sea' on display in Glasgow. now the family that discovered them is set to sell more 'fragments' to collectors
WHAT ARE THE SCROLLS?
The Dead Sea Scrolls consist of more than 10,000 manuscript fragments representing 900 separate texts, including the oldest biblical texts ever found.
They were discovered in caves in the Judean desert alongside the Dead Sea.
Most of the scrolls are animal skin parchment, a few are papyrus, and one is made of copper.
At least 90 percent are written in Hebrew, while the rest are in Aramaic and Greek.
They include 200 manuscripts representing every book in the Hebrew Bible except Esther, most in small fragments.
They predate the era of Jesus by about 80 years.
They also include previously unknown works, thought to have been composed by a community or communities that believed the End of Days was imminent.
This angers Israel's government antiquities authority, which holds most of the scrolls, claims that every last scrap should be recognized as Israeli cultural property, and threatens to seize any more pieces that hit the market.
'I told Kando many years ago, as far as I'm concerned, he can die with those scrolls,' said Amir Ganor, head of the authority's anti-looting squad, speaking of William Kando, who maintains his family's Dead Sea Scrolls collection.
'The scrolls' only address is the State of Israel.'
Kando says his family offered its remaining fragments to the antiquities authority and other Israeli institutions, but they could not afford them.
'If anyone is interested, we are ready to sell,' Kando told The Associated Press, sitting in the Jerusalem antiquities shop he inherited from his late father.
'These are the most important things in the world.'
The world of Holy Land antiquities is rife with theft, deception, and geopolitics, and the Dead Sea Scrolls are no exception.
Their discovery in 1947, in caves by the Dead Sea east of Jerusalem, was one of the greatest archaeological events of the 20th century. Scholarly debate over the scrolls' meaning continues to stir high-profile controversy, while the Jordanian and Palestinian governments have lodged their own claims of ownership.
But few know of the recent gold rush for fragments - or Israel's intelligence-gathering efforts to track their sale.
Written mostly on animal skin parchment about 2,000 years ago, the manuscripts are the earliest copies of the Hebrew Bible ever found, and the oldest written evidence of the roots of Judaism and Christianity in the Holy Land.
They are also significant because they include the Hebrew originals of non-canonical writings that had only survived in ancient translations, and because they prove that multiple versions of Old Testament writings circulated before canonization around 100 AD.
While some of the scrolls are nearly identical to the traditional Hebrew text of the Old Testament, many contain significant variations.
The scrolls were well preserved in their dark, arid caves, but over the centuries most fell apart into fragments of various sizes.
A section of the Dead Sea Scrolls: now smaller, blank fragments are set to be sold to collectors
Israel regards the scrolls a national treasure and keeps its share of them in a secure, climate-controlled, government-operated lab on the Israel Museum campus in Jerusalem. Pnina Shor, who oversees the antiquities authority's scroll collection, said the trove of fragments is so numerous - at least 10,000 - that staff haven't finished counting them all.
Israel has been criticized for limiting scholarly access, but is partnering with Google to upload images of scrolls online.
How most of the Dead Sea Scrolls ended up in Israeli hands is a tale that begins with a Bedouin shepherd who cast a stone inside a dark cave and heard the sound of something breaking. He found clay jars, some with rolled-up scrolls inside.
After a return visit, he and his Bedouin companions had found a total of seven scrolls.
They sold three of them through an antiquities dealer to a Hebrew University professor, and four to William Kando's father, a Christian cobbler in Bethlehem who in turn sold them to the archbishop of the Assyrian Orthodox church.
On the eve of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the archbishop smuggled the scrolls to the U.S. and advertised them in a Wall Street Journal classifieds ad.
Yigael Yadin, Israeli war hero and later one of Israel's pre-eminent archaeologists, bought them through a front man.
For the next decade, archaeologists dug up thousands more scroll fragments in Dead Sea area caves and began to assemble them, like a jigsaw puzzle, in the Rockefeller Archaeological Museum in east Jerusalem, then ruled by Jordan.
Bedouins also found fragments and sold them to Kando, who in turn sold most of them to the museum.
Other fragments went to Jordanian and French state collections, and universities in Chicago, Montreal and Heidelberg, Germany.
In the 1967 Mideast war, Israel seized the Rockefeller collection, and sent soldiers to Bethlehem in the West Bank, 8 kilometers (5 miles) south of Jerusalem, where Kando was rumored to hold another important scroll.
After a brief imprisonment, Kando revealed the parchment scroll in a shoe box under a floor tile in his bedroom, and sold it to Israeli authorities for $125,000, according to a written account by Yadin.
It is called the Temple Scroll, because it partly describes the construction of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. At 8.15 meters (26.7 feet) long, it is the longest ever found.
In 2001 scholars announced that the scrolls, dating between 250 B.C. and A.D. 70, have nearly all been published, 54 years after their discovery by archaeologists in caves on the western shore of the Dead Sea - but now more fragments have emerged
But Kando held much more than he surrendered to Israel.
William, his son, said his father had fragments tucked away which he eventually transferred to Switzerland in the mid-1960s.
In 1993, just as scholars finally began publishing research of Israeli-held scrolls, and the world was abuzz with Dead Sea Scroll fever, Kando died, bequeathing his secret collection of fragments to his sons.
It was the perfect time to sell.
Norwegian businessman Martin Schoyen, a 73-year-old collector of biblical manuscripts, purchased his first Dead Sea Scroll fragment a year later, said Torleif Elgvin, a scholar with the Schoyen Collection.
He eventually purchased a total of 115 fragments, many of them from Kando and some from an American scholar and a British scholar who kept them as souvenirs in the early days after their discovery.
A few years ago, Schoyen suffered financial losses in a business investment and could not afford to continue collecting scrolls, said Elgvin.
William Kando then took his business to the U.S., startling manuscript collectors who didn't know there was any scroll material still available for purchase.
'These were the hurdles I had to pass with collectors in America,' said Lee Biondi, a California dealer who sold pieces on behalf of Kando.
'The impossibility of it; people saying, `you can't get a Dead Sea Scrolls fragment. That's impossible.''
In 2009, Asuza Pacific University, an evangelical Christian college near Los Angeles, bought five fragments, along with biblical antiquities, for $2,478,500, according to Azusa's 2010 tax form.
The college said it had purchased the fragments through Biondi and a private collection. Kando told The Associated Press he was the source of all the fragments.
Between 2009 and 2011, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, negotiated with Kando for the acquisition of eight fragments kept in the Kando family's safe deposit box at UBS Bank in Zurich, according to a book published last year by the seminary president's son, Armour Patterson.
The Seminary did not disclose the sum of the acquisition, but one family said it donated $1 million for the exhibit, and another family said it donated $500,000 for the purchase of a Leviticus fragment, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Qumran in the West Bank, Middle East, where parts of the Dead Sea Scrolls were found
That scroll fragment includes passages from chapters 18 and 20 concerning the laws of sexual morality, and carried a special price tag because of the text's significance, said Bruce McCoy of the Seminary.
'The particular passage is a timeless truth from God's word to the global culture today," said McCoy.
Jerry Pattengale, who oversees the scrolls in the Green Collection, would not say who sold them and for how much, and Kando denied they came from his collection.
Representatives of the collections in Norway and the U.S. say they will publish their research on the writings in a few years.
Pattengale would only provide a basic inventory of the Green Collection's fragments: it includes material from Genesis through Leviticus; Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jonah, Micah, Daniel, and Nehemiah; a Psalm and a mysterious extra-biblical Hebrew document known as an Instruction text.
'They are really small pieces, but they are important because you may have two or three lines that may have not been found anywhere else.
'And suddenly it adds a lot to the history of the Dead Sea Scrolls,' Pattengale said.
'There is at least one rather amazing discovery in one of them.'
Two examples of the pottery jars that held some of the Dead Sea Scrolls documents found at Qumran
He said a non-disclosure agreement bars him from revealing the finding until it is published.
He estimated it would be released in about 18 months and published by Brill, the leading publishing house of Dead Sea Scroll scholarship.
For decades, scholarly access to the scrolls was tightly controlled by a small circle of researchers. Access is freer now, but digital sharing of the artifacts among Israel, Schoyen, and U.S. institutions is limited.
Governments have also jockeyed for ownership of the scrolls, a dispute rooted in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and the redrawn borders that changed control of the desert region where the scrolls were found.
Palestinian officials claim rights to the material because it was found in today's West Bank, Jordan claims rights because the material was discovered when it ruled the territory, and both have unsuccessfully petitioned to seize scrolls when they were displayed abroad in Israeli government-sponsored exhibitions.
Israel considers the scrolls its national patrimony, and says all fragments should be in its large repository for best preservation and research.
Ganor of the antiquities authority said under Israeli law, all scrolls located abroad were removed illegally.
'Whoever buys these takes a risk that the State of Israel would sue," Ganor said.'
But Kando said his father transferred fragments to Switzerland in the mid-1960s - before Israel passed its 1978 law preventing the unauthorized removal of antiquities from the country.
Biondi, the California dealer, said if it weren't for private collections able to pay large sums, fragments would still be languishing in the Kandos' safe-deposit box, and important historical discoveries would not see the light of day.
'It was kind of like a rescue operation, to get this stuff out of the vault,' said Biondi.
But since 1995, Israeli officials have been keeping tabs on his attempted sales - and the correspondence of dealers and middlemen - in an effort to determine what Dead Sea Scrolls his family has left. They estimate that the Kandos are still holding onto around 20 fragments.
The Associated Press was given partial access to the contents of a classified Israeli dossier - a thick red binder which includes photocopies of foreign passports, photos of tiny scroll scraps, letters written by Kando to prospective buyers, and testimony from informants on attempted sales.
One such testimony alleges that in 2007, a well-known professor in Jerusalem offered to facilitate the sale of a Deuteronomy fragment to a U.S. dealer for $250,000.
A document dated May 17, 2012, marked 'confidential,' listed eleven scroll fragments and their sizes, only a few centimeters large.
WHERE ARE THE SCROLLS?
Dead Sea Scrolls are currently located in the following collections:
- Israel Antiquities Authority (More than 10,000 scroll fragments)
Israel is keen to obtain one scrap in particular from Kando: a well-preserved Genesis fragment shaped like a butterfly and about the size of a cereal box - 'The largest fragment in private hands,' Kando claims.
About 5 years ago, Israeli diamond billionaire and antiquities collector Shlomo Moussaieff offered to buy the piece and donate it to the country. Ganor, of Israel's antiquities authority, said Kando's price of around $1.2 million was too high.
The fragment includes passages that tell the story of Joseph, and is written in Paleo-Hebrew, an ancient Israelite script pre-dating the Hebrew block characters adopted by Jews around the 5th century B.C. and still in use today.
The Kando family agreed to display the Genesis fragment, for the first time, in Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary's exhibit.
After the exhibit closed in January, Kando said the fragment returned to his family's Swiss safe deposit box, still mounted in the glass frame in which it was displayed.
Kando is said to be asking for about $40 million for the Genesis piece, according to Pattengale of the Green Collection. Kando would not disclose financial details of his dealings, and said his family is currently not participating in any new negotiations for additional scroll sales.
Scholars consider Kando's fragments to be authentic because his father was directly involved in the sale of scrolls when they were first discovered.
Scholars examining the Dead Sea Scroll fragments
New scroll fragments from the Dead Sea region have surfaced in recent years from different sources.
The fragments were unrelated to the Dead Sea Scrolls trove, but were found in the same region and dated to the 2nd century A.D.
Eshel had already given the fragments to Israeli authorities before the raid, and had said it was never his intention to purchase them for himself, but Israel's antiquities authority said he had acted illegally. Eshel died in 2010.
In mid-2010, a team of 30 Israeli undercover agents and officers staged a stakeout at Jerusalem's Hyatt Hotel, posing as interested buyers, and seized a papyrus fragment dating to the 2nd century A.D. The Palestinian dealers offering the papyrus for sale were arrested.
It is likely more ancient manuscripts, and even Dead Sea Scrolls, remain hidden in caves next to the
Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth, waiting to be discovered.
Many cave entrances are hidden by vegetation and rock falls, or their approaches are eroded, said Lenny Wolfe, a Jerusalem manuscripts dealer.
'I would not at all be surprised if more material were to be found,' Wolfe said.
According to the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus selected this town as the center of his public ministry in Galilee after he left the small mountainous hamlet of Nazareth (Matthew 1:12-17). Capernaum has no obvious advantages over any other city in the area, so he probably chose it because it was the home of his first disciples, Simon (Peter) and Andrew. The Gospel of John suggests that Jesus' ministry was centered in a village called Cana.