So This Is Christmas: How Some of the World’s 2 Billion Christians Celebrated in 2014

From Iraq to Kenya, believers mark the holiday in familiar and surprising ways.
Cars drive on a street illuminated with Christmas lights in Tbilisi, Georgia, on Dec. 25. (Photo: David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters)
Dec 25, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Nicole Pasulka is a writer and reporter who lives in New York City. She has written for Mother Jones, BuzzFeed, The Believer, and the New York Observer.

The number of Christians in the world has quadrupled in the past 100 years. And while the percentage of Europeans who are Christian has declined slightly, the religion’s reach has grown dramatically in South America, Africa, and even Asia.

In sub-Saharan Africa, only 9 percent of the population was Christian in 1902. That number increased to 63 percent by 2010.

Practicing Christians bring their various ethnic and cultural traditions to their faith. Here’s a glimpse at 2014’s Christmas celebrations around the world.

(Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters)

On Serpentine Lake in London’s Hyde Park, more than 100 adventurous “polar bears” took the plunge into near-freezing waters for the annual Peter Pan Cup on Christmas Day.

(Photo: Mohsin Raz/Reuters)

There are more than two million Christians in Pakistan, and many are descendants of those who converted during British occupation. Still, they’re the country’s second-largest religious minority, after Hindus. In this photo, a woman lights candles on Christmas Day at the Cathedral Church in Lahore.

(Photo: Max Rossi/REUTERS)

During his Christmas address this year, Pope Francis discussed children who are victims of violence and the spread of the Islamic State in the Middle East. He made specific mention of the 132 students killed when Islamic militants attacked an army school in Pakistan earlier this month.

(Photo: Noor Khamis/Reuters)

In Kenya, 82 percent of people identify as Christian. At All Saints’ Cathedral in Nairobi, these worshippers sang hymns on Christmas Day.

(Photo: Ahmad Mousa/Reuters)

A little more than 10 years ago there were more than 1.5 million Christians in Iraq. Since then, Islamic extremists and militants have pushed more than two-thirds of the population out of the country. At Mar Girgis Church on Christmas in Baghdad, Iraqi Christians prayed.

(Photo: REUTERS)

Though only around 1 percent of the Chinese population is Christian, Christmas is growing in popularity there. In the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, a reindeer sled race marks the opening ceremony of a winter festival on the day before the holiday.