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Christians Celebrate Christmas; Jews Mark First Night of Hanukkah


Jews worldwide are lighting candles to mark the first night of the Jewish holiday Hanukkah -- which coincides with Christmas for the first time in 46 years.

The Jewish festival of lights begins at sundown Sunday, when the first of eight nightly candles are lit and children enjoy games, sweets, and traditional potato pancakes. Hanukkah marks the Jewish victory over the powerful Syrian army more than 2000 years ago.

Christians worldwide are also celebrating Christmas Sunday with prayers for peace.

In his first Christmas message of his papacy, Pope Benedict called for a new world order in which humanity unites against terrorism, poverty, disease, and environmental destruction. He delivered his "Urbi et Orbi" (To the City and the World) message and blessing to tens of thousands of pilgrims at the Vatican, wishing them a merry Christmas in more than 30 languages.

In Bethlehem, thousands of foreign pilgrims braved cold and rainy weather to visit the historical birthplace of Jesus and attend Mass.

In China, where religion is tightly restricted by the government, millions marked Christmas at both state-approved and unregistered churches. Beijing's Jewish community gathered on the great wall of China for a Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony.

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