Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer have thanked the armed forces and NHS staff for their work in dealing with Covid-19.
In a video call with troops in the UK and abroad, the PM saluted those who had helped build hospitals, deliver equipment and organise testing.
“You represent in my view the very best of our country,” he said.
In his Christmas message, Sir Keir said the pandemic had shown the values of “generosity and kindness” in abundance.
While it had been tough year for everyone and a traumatic one for many, the Labour leader said “in every village, every town and every city, we have seen the very best of Britain”.
He paid tribute to the “key workers who have been our country’s rock, the servicemen and servicewomen who have stepped up, and the incredible scientists who have discovered a vaccine”.
While there was “light at the end of the tunnel” in the country’s fight against the virus, he acknowledged the difficulties many families face with “an empty space around the Christmas table” this year.
“I know it hasn’t been easy. I know for many of our key workers they will have to step up again, one more time, this Christmas, as will our armed forces, who have deployed here and across the overseas,” he said.
“Christmas is a time for us to be thankful for what we value most and to care for those who have lost so much.”
And he urged people to capture the spirit shown during the crisis to “rebuild a better future for our country”.
Addressing troops stationed in Mali, Estonia, Somalia and Afghanistan, as well as those deployed in the UK, Mr Johnson thanked them all for being “our number one export”.
“You represent in my view the very best of our country, the thing people really want to see around the world.
“It’s not just abroad that this has been an amazing year for the armed services. So many of you have been responsible for doing extraordinary things here at home, thousands of you helping to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.
“Building the Nightingales, delivering PPE, testing people, and now leading the way and helping the country to get vaccinated.
“Thank you for your sacrifice and your effort. You’re bringing hope and encouragement to the entire country.”