Christians gathered in the traditional birthplace of Jesus for a midnight mass at Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity.
"Christmas brings us a message of joy and peace," Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Foud Twal said.
Pope Benedict the 16th ushered in Christmas Day with an evening mass calling for peace on the holy day.
A serenade from U.S. soldiers stationed in a war zone during Christmas - in Afghanistan the usual sounds of explosions and gunfire replaced by carols.
"It is an honor to serve my country, but also I hate to miss my family at the same time, so it is fifty, fifty," U.S. Solider in Afghanistan Lee Heckenlaible said.
Back in the U.S., the North American Aerospace Defense Command has an important year-round mission to monitor the skies of North America. But on Christmas eve, there's another task -- figuring out the global trail of St. Nick.
"We'll keep track of him for the full 24 hours he's out and about basically for the entire day," Capt. James Hineline said.
But it's just not Santa alone dropping presents on kids everywhere. Sometimes the gifts are presented by elephants, like in this traditional celebration in Thailand.
Six elephants dressed as Santa Claus entertained school children who jostled and tussled to snatch toys from the elephants' trunks.