Is there any better place in the world to visit during Christmas than the town of Bethlehem, where Jesus was actually born?
"And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David" (Luke 2:3-4).
Travelujah recommends that Christians follow in the path of Joseph and make a similar pilgrimage this year to Bethlehem, the town that many believe is the birthplace of Jesus. To ensure an exciting and festive Christmas season in Bethlehem, a number of religious and cultural celebrations have been planned for Christmas 2012.
Enjoy strolling beautifully decorated streets of Bethlehem, where the Christmas ornaments and lights put all around the town create a special atmosphere of celebration and joy. When reaching the Manger Square, the first thing to notice will be this year’s Christmas tree -- bigger and more splendid than ever.
However, this amazing tree will be just a Christmas decoration underlining the importance of the place you would be in. Only few steps behind it is the entrance to the Basilica of the Nativity, the church built over the grotto where Jesus, Prince of Peace, was born.
“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:11).
On the 15th of December, see the solemn Lightning of the Christmas Tree. Firstly, everybody is invited to join common prayer in the St. Catherine’s Church of the Nativity Church at 4:30 p.m. Right after the mass, at 5:30 p.m., Christmas concerts will begin to please our ears and the tree will be ceremonially lightened.
2nd Nativity Festival on the Manger Square will be a great musical entertainment starting every day from 16th till 23rd of December around 5 p.m.
19th of December will mark the Day of St. Nicholas. Did you know that Santa Claus lived for four years in a cave in Beit Jala, a town next to Bethlehem, to exclude himself close to the place where the Christ was born? Church of St. Nicholas in Beit Jala will host a solemn mass at 7:30 a.m. Scouts parade will march the town around noon. Musical event featuring very talented local singers will start at 6 p.m.
"Taste the Nativity Land" festival prepared by the John Paul II Foundation will be a great occasion to taste local products of Bethlehem like wine, olive oil and traditional bread. This all could be enjoyed from 20th till 22nd of December, in a beautiful Christmas setting and live carols performances. The first day, will as well feature a great children’s parade, which will start from the Manger Square at 1:30 p.m. and march through the streets of Bethlehem to reach the grounds of the JP II Foundation.
Beit Sahour, the town famous for the Shepherd’s Fields, has its own Christmas tree, which will be solemnly lighted on the 20th of December. At 5 p.m., a beautiful “Procession for Peace” will walk from town’s center (souq es-shab) to reach the place of the three lightning in front of Beit Sahour’s municipality building. Musical concerts and fireworks are expected.
24th of December marks the Christmas Eve. On that day, scouts of Bethlehem are going to welcome the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fuad Twal. The Patriarch is expected to arrive around 1 p.m. to the area of the Rachel’s Tomb and reach the Manger Square around 2:30 p.m.
24th of December is as well the day of the Midnight Mass celebrated in the St. Catherine’s Church. The event requires previously obtained tickets. The door of the church will be open from 9 p.m.
For all those who would like to enjoy common caroling, a special event prepared by a group “Brass for Peace” will take place in the Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem at 7:30 p.m. on the 24th of December.
Join the Shepherds' Nights celebrations on the 25th of December in Beit Sahour. Candle procession at 4 p.m., from the Orthodox Shepherds' Fields to the center of Beit Sahour, will symbolize the way of the shepherds led by the star. Musical concerts will follow.
On the 29th of December at 6 p.m. enjoy “Bethlehem Christmas Festival” -- 80-voice festival choir concert in on the stage of Dar Annadwa, located next to the Christmas Lutheran Church.
Mark Your Calendar
15/12 – Lightning of the Christmas Tree in Bethlehem
16-23/12 – 2nd Nativity Festival
19/12 – St. Nicholas Celebrations in Beit Jala
20-22/12 – “Taste the Nativity Land” Festival in JP II Foundation
20/12 – Lightning of the Christmas Tree in Beit Sahour
24/12 – Welcoming of the Latin Patriarch on the Manger Square; Christmas Eve Midnight Mass in the St. Catherine Church; “Brass for Peace” in the Christmas Lutheran Church
25/12 – Shepherds' Nights in Beit Sahour
29/12 – “Bethlehem Christmas Festival”
Traveling to Bethlehem
You can easily reach Bethlehem from Jerusalem by taking bus #21 from the bus station next to the Damascus Gate of Old Jerusalem. The way will take around 30 minutes and will take you through Beit Jala to the area called Bab el-Zkak in Bethlehem. To reach the Manger Square from there, walk Pope Paul VI street for 15 minutes.
Travelujah.com invites you to join one of the many Bethlehem day tours and visit the city on a group tour bus with a licensed tour guide. Several Bethlehem day tours are available including:
- Bethlehem-Jericho Day Tour: $125 per person from Jerusalem
- Bethlehem and Jerusalem One Day Tour: $99 per person from Jerusalem
- Bethlehem Christmas Eve 2012 Tour: $115 per person from Jerusalem
For a full list of 2012-2013 Christmas-related events, click here.
Beata Andonia works for the Bethlehem tourist bureau and blogs regularly about Bethlehem for Travelujah Holy Land Tours. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010.
Elisa L. Moed is the founder and CEO of Travelujah Holy Land Tours, the leading Christian social network focused on travel to the Holy Land. People can learn, plan and share their Holy Land tour and travel experiences on Travelujah.
Publication date: December 19, 2012