Spending Christmas in Bethlehem and want to know what to do?
To help you plan your visit Travelujah.com has prepared a top 10 list of activities for Christmas in of Bethlehem to. And if you might only be coming next year – hold onto this list!
1. Visit the holy sites and walk the ancient trails
Begin on Star Street and walk to the Nativity Grotto and Basilica of the Nativity built over it just as Mary and Joseph did. It is believed that this was the way the holy family entered Bethlehem after the decree issued by the Cesar Augustus. Today during this 15 minutes stroll, a person can also admire the ancient architecture of the Bethlehem’s Old City.
After visiting Shepherd’s Fields, the area where the Angel Gabriel would announce Christ’s birth to the shepherds, walk as the pastors walked up towards Bethlehem lead by the brightly shining star. Shepherd’s Fields are located in the town of Beit Sahour, 2 km away from the Nativity Church.
2. Enjoy three Christmas Eves in Bethlehem
Besides the fact that Christmas spirit could be felt in Bethlehem throughout the whole year, you might wonder why this holiday is celebrated here more than once.
Bethlehem is a town where live various Christian denominations, and those follow different liturgical calendars. Catholics and Lutherans observe the Christmas Day on the 25th of December, Orthodox and Oriental Christians celebrate it on 7th of January, and Armenian Christians on 19th of January. It is impossible to merge those festivities and agree on one common date as the building of the Church of the Nativity would not be capable to host all the faithful at once.
On each Christmas Eve, a day preceding each of the Christmas Days of each rite (24th of Dec., 6th of Jan., 18th of Jan.), solemn parades welcome Patriarchs representing each denomination. Attending a Christmas Eve Mass in the Nativity Church would be also a special spiritual experience.
3. Attend Lightning of a Christmas Tree in Beit Sahour
This year 2013, the solemn lightning of the Christmas tree in Beit Sahour, town located just 2 km from Bethlehem, is scheduled for the 19th of December at 5 pm. Enjoy the festive atmosphere, fireworks and concerts of the local musicians in the ‘town of the shepherds’.
4. Participate in a Candle Procession
On the 25th of December 2013 at 2 pm there is scheduled a religious pilgrimage from the St. Catherine’s Church in Bethlehem to the Orthodox and then to Latin Shepherd’s Fields in Beit Sahour. Later on that day, as a part of annual Shepherd’s Nights Festival Beit Sahour organizes a candle procession from the Orthodox Shepherd’s Fields to the area called Souk el-Shab in the middle of the town. Join the locals and have a nice time.
5. Celebrate Christmas or New Year party with the locals
Many hotels in Bethlehem organize parties with singers during the Christmas season. Joining a party could be also a way of enjoying that special time with your family. Have a look at the following program. For reservation call:
24/12 (Tuesday) – Christmas Eve:
- The Golden Park – Beit Sahour (02 – 277 4414) – 9 pm – Bishara Sakhnini
- Shepherd’s Hotel – Bethlehem (02 – 274 0656) – 9 pm – Eyad Tannous
- Intercontinental Bethlehem (02 – 276 6777) – 7 pm – Special Christmas Eve Dinner; 10 pm – Christmas Eve Party
25/12 (Wednesday) – Christmas Day:
- Paradise Hotel (02 – 274 4542/3) – 9 pm – Bishara Sakhnini
- The Golden Park – Beit Sahour (02 – 277 4414) – 9 pm – Jihad Aalboni
- Grand Hotel (02 – 274 1602) – 9 pm – Bassam Bishara
- Shepherd’s Hotel – Bethlehem (02 – 274 0656) – 9 pm – Rimon Khoury
- Grand Park Hotel (02 – 277 4414) – 9 pm – Haitham Al-Shomali
- Intercontinental Bethlehem (02 – 276 6777) – 12 – 3 pm – Christmas Day Lunch; 9 pm – Christmas Party
31/12 (Tuesday) – New Year’s Eve:
- Paradise Hotel (02 – 274 4542/3) – 9 pm – Zahi Gharib
- Ararat Hotel (02 – 276 6880) – 9 pm – Hani Mitwasi
- The Golden Park – Beit Sahour (02 – 277 4414) – 9 pm – Hasanein Al-Masri
- Shepherd’s Hotel – Bethlehem (02 – 274 0656) – 9 pm – Violet Salameh
- Intercontinental Bethlehem (02 – 276 6777) – 9 pm – New Year’s Eve Party
6. See a Christmas concert
There are many musical performances during the Christmas season 2013. Local and international artists will perform every day during the evening hours on the Christmas Festival (19 – 30 Dec.) in Bethlehem on stage on Manger Square and on Shepherd’s Nights Festival (23 – 25 Dec.) with a stage in front of the Beit Sahour Municipality. The exact schedule of the shows can be found here.
7. Join St. Nicholas’ Feast in Beit Jala
Beit Jala is located just 2 km west from Bethlehem. It is believed that the Orthodox Church of St. Nicholas, located in the old core of Beit Jala, was built over a grotto which was once inhabited by St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) who came to the Holy Land from Capadocia in the 4th century as a hermit. Every year, on the 18th and 19th of December, the local community of the town celebrates the Feast of St. Nicholas. On 18th of December, you can attend a vespers service at 3 pm in the St. Nicholas Church. On 19th of December, which is also the name day of the saint, the church service starts at 7:30 am, followed by a joyous scout procession around noon. Musical and folklore concerts are planned as the afternoon and evening activities.
8. Join St. Sabas Feast
Mar Saba is a Greek Orthodox monastery located 15 km east from Bethlehem. The cloister, founded by St. Saba of Capadocia in 439, overlooks the Kidron Valley and dry landscapes of Jerusalem’s wilderness. One of monastery’s tradition is the restriction on women enteringthe main compound. They can however visit the Women’s Tower, near the main entrance.
The Feast of St. Saba is held from the afternoon of 17th of Dec. until the morning of the 18th of Dec., with all night service lead by the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem. An adjacent church tower holds a mass for female pilgrims as well. The opposite wall of the valley will be beautifully decorated with candle lights emerging from the caves. Monks share with the pilgrims home made bread and sweet wine.
9. Visit St. Theodosius Monastery
St. Theodosius Monastery is situated around 9 km east from Bethlehem. A tradition states that the saint, after whom the church is named, was led by God to seek out the cave where the Wise Men spent a night on their way back to the east after paying a homage to Christ in Bethlehem. In 476, St. Theodosus founded a monastery on that site
On 24th of January, the monks and nuns of the cloister celebrate its feast day with a morning liturgy, which is followed by the opening of the Magi’s cave.
10. Send Christmas Greetings from Bethlehem
Christmas, the celebration of Jesus’ birth, is a very special time of the year. Send warm Christmas wishes from Bethlehem to your family and friends. Share with them your experience from the Holy City and invite them to spend this beautiful holiday together in ‘the Capital of Christmas’ next year. Average postcard costs around 5 NIS and a post stamp is around 3-4 NIS.
Do you have a question?
If you have any questions regarding your Christmas visit in Bethlehem? Check another Travelujah article: ‘Everything you need to know about Christmas in Bethlehem (but were afraid to ask)’ or contact Travelujah directly on firstname.lastname@example.org
Christmas Eve Tour
If you would like to visit Bethlehem and Jerusalem on the Christmas Eve with a guided tour, join this special Christmas Eve Tour offered by Travelujah. There are scheduled pickups from Herzliya, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Elisa Moed and Beata Antonia for http://www.Travelujah.com. Elisa is the Founder and CEO of Travelujah.com, the leading faith-based social network in the Holy Land. Beata moved to Bethlehem from Poland in 2010 and writes for Travelujah from Bethlehem.