AP PHOTOS: Prayers, candles and Santas for year-end holidays
January 6, 2021 GMT

Santa Claus got around quite a bit last month — despite the pandemic.

There he was speaking to a toddler at a Christmas fair in Venezuela’s capital. Linking arms in a prayer circle with leather-clad members of a faith-based Missouri motorcycle club. In Gaza City, not one but two Santas posed with restaurant-goers for a selfie in front of a tall tree bedecked with ornaments.

The sightings of the red-suited, white-bearded bearer of gifts and good cheer came as people around the world observed Christmas and other year-end holidays, as captured by AP photographers in December.

In Cuba, followers of Saint Lazarus held flowers and prayed during a pilgrimage on his feast day around mid-month; a week later, on Christmas Eve, a man poured a shot of run to celebrate the sidewalk butchering of a pig for his family to eat during the holidays.

In Israel, Ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students lit candles on the first day of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights.

And in Nepal, a devotee’s face glowed orange from an oil lamp on the banks of the Bagmati River during the Hindu festival of Bala Chaturdashi, honoring the memory of departed loved ones.

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Amid celebration there was also grief, as the pandemic’s toll climbed to over 1.8 million confirmed dead worldwide as of the end of 2020.

In northern Iran, relatives of a COVID-19 victim mourned in face masks at a funeral amid the gray slabs of a hilltop cemetery.

Meanwhile in Sri Lanka, a family watched from a safe distance as municipal workers in head-to-toe protective equipment carried a coffin bearing a relative who also died from the coronavirus and was to be cremated.

These and more are among the AP’s top faith-related images from December.


Associated Press religion coverage receives support from the Lilly Endowment through The Conversation U.S. The AP is solely responsible for this content.


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