(CNN)The Iraqi Cabinet approved a law to mark Christmas Day, December 25, as an official holiday across the country “on the occasion of the birth of Jesus Christ,” according to a statement released by the Iraqi government.
The Cabinet voted on an amendment to the national holidays law in the country that Christmas Day is a holiday for all Iraqis, and not only for the Christian community, as it had been for decades.”Happy Christmas to our Christian citizens, all Iraqis and to all who are celebrating around the world,” the Iraqi government said on Twitter.Before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, there were about 1.4 million Christians in the country. However, their numbers have dwindled to roughly 300,000 after hundreds of thousands fled the country following violence and attacks by various armed groups over the years. Photos: Iraqi town liberated from ISIS holds Christmas serviceClergymen hold Mass on Christmas Eve for people who returned to Bartella, Iraq, after ISIS militants had been driven out of the town.Hide Caption 1 of 8 Photos: Iraqi town liberated from ISIS holds Christmas serviceFormer residents return to Bartella for an emotional Christmas Eve Mass.Hide Caption 2 of 8 Photos: Iraqi town liberated from ISIS holds Christmas serviceUS and Iraqi security forces were on hand to protect churchgoers after ISIS reportedly made threats to attack Bartella.Hide Caption 3 of 8 Photos: Iraqi town liberated from ISIS holds Christmas serviceFather Behnam Lalo, left, and another clergyman pray during Christmas Mass held in Bartella.Hide Caption 4 of 8 Photos: Iraqi town liberated from ISIS holds Christmas serviceA religious statue vandalized by ISIS stands outside Mart Shmony Church in Bartella.Hide Caption 5 of 8 Photos: Iraqi town liberated from ISIS holds Christmas serviceAbout 300 Iraqi Christians traveled by bus, mostly from camps in the city of Irbil, to their hometown of Bartella.Hide Caption 6 of 8 Photos: Iraqi town liberated from ISIS holds Christmas serviceISIS attacked the Iraqi town of Bartella in 2014, burning and damaging the Mart Shmony Church.Hide Caption 7 of 8 Photos: Iraqi town liberated from ISIS holds Christmas serviceA plastic tree outside the Mart Shmony Church marks the return of Christmas to battle-scarred Bartella.Hide Caption 8 of 8Most recently, the rise of ISIS in Iraq forced many of the remaining Christians to flee the country or be killed, as CNN has documented. Read MoreIn 2016, the ancient Iraqi Christian town of Bartella celebrated Christmas for the first time in two years after being liberated from ISIS.