Christmas festivities have begun, with hundreds of millions across the world celebrating a pared-down version of a holiday typically marked by travel and large gatherings.
Millions of people across the world have marked a grim Christmas Eve as coronavirus infections exploded, political leaders warned them not to travel or gather in large groups and a highly contagious variant of the virus spread further in Europe.
The battle to halt the pandemic, which has claimed more than 1.7 million lives, is far from over despite the launching of mass vaccine campaigns that offer the promise of an eventual return to normalcy.
Churches across South Korea stood largely empty, with worshippers congregating online as the country reported a new daily caseload record.
And in Catholic-majority Philippine, services were rocked when a 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck the country, capping off a troubled yuletide already muted by bans on parties and carol singing.
Despite warm weather, the usual picnicking crowds also avoided the sands of Sydney's Bondi Beach, while the waves were empty of surfing Santas and patrolling police officers enforced social distancing rules.
Pope Francis, spiritual leader of 1.3 billion Catholics across the globe, celebrated Christmas Eve mass in St Peter's Basilica before fewer than 200 masked faithful, mostly employees of the tiny state of Vatican City.
Bethlehem, where Christians believe Jesus was born, was preparing for a Christmas unlike any in its recent history.
The Christmas Eve mass at the Church of the Nativity is traditionally the highlight of a holiday season that sees hundreds of thousands of visitors flock to the Palestinian city in the occupied West Bank.
Germany has been forced to cancel its famous Christmas markets, while in Kuwait, churches were closed until January 10 despite being home to a large Christian community.
For many, the isolation that has defined the past year will continue into Christmas Day and beyond – such as in Belgium, where residents are largely limited to welcoming a single visitor.
Britons, meanwhile, were cut off from swathes of the world due to the emergence of a new Covid-19 strain.
Some UK border restrictions have been temporarily relaxed for the holidays, but thousands from other European countries are still stranded in England.
"Home for Christmas? Forget it," said Laurent Beghin, a French truck driver who delivered his cargo but was still stuck days later.