World

Crowds gather in Bethlehem's Manger Square ahead of Christmas Eve celebrations

  • Christian worshippers visit the Church of Nativity, traditionally believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

    Christian worshippers visit the Church of Nativity, traditionally believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)  (The Associated Press)

  • Palestinian Christian nun Rosaria, prepares a Nativity scene at the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Church of Visitation, also known as St. Mary's Visitation Church, in preparation for Christmas in the northern West Bank village of Zababdeh near Jenin, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013. Arabic writing from the Bible, Mathew 18:3, reads, "Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven." (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)

    Palestinian Christian nun Rosaria, prepares a Nativity scene at the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Church of Visitation, also known as St. Mary's Visitation Church, in preparation for Christmas in the northern West Bank village of Zababdeh near Jenin, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013. Arabic writing from the Bible, Mathew 18:3, reads, "Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven." (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)  (The Associated Press)

  • Christian pilgrim worshippers from Nigeria pray in the Grotto of the Church of Nativity, traditionally believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

    Christian pilgrim worshippers from Nigeria pray in the Grotto of the Church of Nativity, traditionally believed by Christians to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, in the West Bank town of Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)  (The Associated Press)

Large crowds have begun to gather in the biblical town of Bethlehem for Christmas Eve celebrations.

Hundreds of tourists packed the town's Manger Square to enjoy the cool, sunny weather ahead of celebrations on Tuesday evening. The nearby Church of the Nativity sits on the spot where tradition says Jesus was born.

The number of visitors remains below the levels of the late 1990s, when Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts were at their height. Following the outbreak of a Palestinian uprising in 2000, the numbers plunged.

But thanks to a period of relative calm, they have been steadily climbing in recent years — and are expected to get an extra push this year thanks to the resumption of peace talks.

Palestinian Tourism Minister Rula Maayah says the Palestinians "deserve to have peace."