In Iraq Christians have been forced to curtail festivities that celebrate the birth of Jesus more than 2000 years ago, showing the modern challenge of one of Christianity's most important feasts - writes Francis Wong.
Iraqi church officials in the cities of Kirkuk and Mosul in the north, at Basra in the south, and in Baghdad said they would not hold evening mass or put up Christmas decorations.
They warned worshippers also not decorate their homes. Even an appearance by Santa Claus was called off.
Iraqi Christians have faced attacks by extremists such as al-Qaida and remember recent killing of 68 people during a bombing in a Baghdad church two months ago
"Nobody can ignore the threats of al-Qaeda against Iraqi Christians," Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako in Kirkuk was quoted saying by the Associated Press.
"We cannot find a single source of joy that makes us celebrate. The situation of the Christians is bleak."
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International  is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches. It suspends operations in December 2010, but hopes to be restructured in early 2011]