Supporters of the Syrian government took to social media to share videos and photos of Christmas festivities in the war-torn nation as the military continued its advance Friday against rebel-held sections of Aleppo.

Syria is a Sunni Muslim-majority nation, but it has significant Shiite Muslim and Christian populations. Shiites make up about 13 percent of the country, including the Alawite sect of which Syrian President Bashar Assad is a part. The Christian population is estimated at 10 percent,or about 400,000 people, many now living in government-controlled areas where they enjoy minority protection afforded to them by Assad and his father before him Hafez al-Assad.

Most Christians adhere to the Eastern sects, including Greek Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic and Syrian Orthodox. Large numbers also align with the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Syriac Maronite Church of Antioch, the Armenian Catholic Church, the Syrian Catholic Church and the Chaldean Catholic Church, all of which take direction from the Vatican.

Since widespread protests against Assad erupted into armed opposition against the government in 2011, Syria's Christians have faced persecution by ultraconservative Islamist rebel groups including those linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS. Christians in some rebel-held areas were forced to pay a religious tax known as jizyahwhile others were subject to imprisonment, kidnapping and even death. Leaders of Syria's Christian communities have also criticized the government for allegedly exploiting sectarian divides in the nation and striking historic religious sites.

Syria is home to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world. Christianity in Syria dates back two millennia to biblical times, with Jesus' apostle Saint Peter hailing from Bethsaida in historical Syria and on the border of what is now the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. Peter was also the first pope, according to religious tradition, with at least five other popes claiming historical Syrian heritage. In modern times, in 1947 Syrian Greek Orthodox philosopher Michel Aflaq helped found the Arab Ba'ath Party — a branch of which remains the ruling party in Syria. Syrian Christians have held a number of high-profile positions within the government and elite social circles since.

Now a number of social media users, many of them supportive of the Syrian government, have begun sharing pictures and clips of Christmases past and present in Syria.

Some took the opportunity to point out what appeared to be relative stability and religious freedom enjoyed in government-controlled areas, while others reflected on how the destruction of war hindered annual religious celebrations.

Government critics used Christmas to bring attention to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Aleppo, blaming military forces for indiscriminate bombings and restricting civilians' access to aid.