Christmas is just around the corner and for those looking to have an extra special and memorable holiday, celebrating Christmas in Bethlehem is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Filled with energy, light, and warmth, Bethlehem offers not only the opportunity to visit the Church of Nativity where Jesus was born along with many other important sites but an opportunity to partake in Midnight Mass and celebrate Christmas with an international community. The best way to experience Christmas in Israel is with this Christmas Eve in Bethlehem Tour – here are 5 reasons why you should join as well to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem this holiday season.
1) The whole city comes to life during Christmas in Bethlehem
While Bethlehem is a beautiful place to visit year-round, it becomes particularly special during the month of December when the city comes to life with light and color. Like most celebrations in the Middle East, bright lights signify a celebration and time to rejoice and as such, the Old City of Bethlehem goes through a decorative transformation. For both the Muslim and Christian families in Bethlehem, Christmas is a special time. The streets are lined with tinsel, lights and of course, Christmas trees and Santa Clause along with Christmas Markets and a Christmas Parade. The decorations bring the whole city of Bethlehem to life, and families spend more time outside of the home enjoying the festive vibe of the city. If there is ever a time to visit, coming to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem is one of the best times to view not only the city but also the people who live there.
2) services and processions in Bethlehem
As Bethlehem has religious significance as the city where Jesus was born, it is significant to all denominations of Christianity, and Catholicism. There are several processions that take place for a variety of denominations including Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Catholic, Protestant, and Ethiopian. These Christmas processions although they vary, pass through the same sites including Manger Square and often many take place at the Shephard’s Fields. Additionally, the processions pass through the Church of Nativity also known as the Basilica of the Nativity.
3) Christmas in Bethlehem lasts longer
The Christmas festivities in Bethlehem begin in early December and last well into January. For those travelers who are not able to visit on December 24 or December 25, the celebrations continue for other denominations. Others such as Greek Orthodox who celebrate Christmas on January 7 and some Armenian Apostolic churches celebrate on January 6. These celebrations continue to take place well into January making it easy to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem or continue to keep the festive spirit a little longer into 2019.
4) Experience authentic Christmas food
One of the best ways to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem is to enjoy some of the seasonal holiday treats. It is common to see traditional Christmas cookies known as Maamoul, a Middle Eastern butter cookie with semolina dough that is prepared during religious holidays. These sweet cookies are often filled with date paste ajweh and sometimes include rose water, pistachios or powdered sugar. There are also Ghraybeh, a variation of shortbread also made from semolina with pistachios and orange blossom. These sweet cookies pair perfectly with traditional Arabic coffee that is strong and spiced with cardamom served piping hot.
5) A unique shared experience in Bethlehem
While Christmas in Bethlehem attracts mostly Christian tourists, many locals from Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Nazareth, and surrounding areas regardless of their religious affiliation including Jews and Muslims come to partake in the Christmas celebrations. Christmas in Bethlehem is a unique time that brings people together where a sense of unity and collaboration can be felt. The holiday spirit is alive and a very special experience to be shared with others in Bethlehem.