Christmas in Nazareth
Tucked away up in Galilee, less than an hour’s drive from the Mediterranean city of Haifa, lies Nazareth. Charming, beautiful, and fascinating, it’s a wonderful place to visit, whether you’re a Christian pilgrim, someone fascinated with ancient places, or just a curious tourist.
The sky over Nazareth, Israel. Photo by Yousef Espanioly on Unsplash
And the best time to go? Well, spring and fall have the optimum climate, summer in Israel is glorious but hot and then there’s the winter and, of course, the Christmas period. Yes, Christmas in Israel is really something worth experiencing, especially in Nazareth, since this is the city where Jesus spent some of his early years, and where his parents were also raised.
Indeed, on any day tour of Nazareth and Galilee, visitors will explore the Church of the Annunciation (where the Angel Gabriel appeared before the Virgin Mary, announcing that she was with child) and the Church of St. Joseph, built over what was once the carpentry workshop of Mary’s husband, Joseph. Let’s take a closer look at Nazareth and what you can expect to see if you’re traveling to Israel this December and hoping to experience some of the Christmas festivities there.
Christmas Festivities in Israel
Israel’s largest Arab city, with a sizable Christian population, Nazareth really comes to life at this time of the year. Here are some of the dates you might want to put in your diary if you’re planning a trip.
December 6th, 2022 - This is the day that the city’s famous Christmas tree will be lit. Located by the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, it really doesn’t matter whether you’re a Christian or not when watching the lights being switched on - trust us, the crowd is going to be packed with a mixture of locals, tourists and Israelis from all over the country who’ve come to enjoy the experience. Here’s a really nice video by ‘@Relaxing Walker’ of the Night Illuminations in Nazareth in 2021 to give you an idea of how fun it is.
Annunciation Church, Nazareth, Israel. Photo credit: © ShutterstockDecember 11th, 2022 - in the heart of the city, at Mary’s Well Square, there will be the annual Nazareth Christmas market. As always, it’s going to be a jolly affair, with arts and crafts, food stalls, entertainment, and market stalls selling all kinds of local produce, including hot chestnuts. sweet treats and artisan foods from farms in the area, including spices, coffee, cheeses, and olive oils.
And if you’re looking to pick up some souvenirs from Israel to take home, the stalls will also be selling traditional Arab jewelry, fabrics, and clothing, all of which make a perfect gift for someone close to you. There will also be singers, bands (on a stage specially erected) and - of course! - Santa Claus will be making an appearance. With lights twinkling and carols being sung, it really will be a lovely day.
December 24th, 2022 - The festivities kick off at 3 pm, when the Christmas Parade takes off, beginning at Mary’s Well and proceeding down Paulo VI street. There will be scouts, musicians, and dancers, all in brightly-colored costumes. At 5.30 pm (at which time it will already be pitch black) there’ll be a fantastic firework display, free of charge, which will thrill both kids and adults. Dress up warmly and don’t forget your gloves and hat either!
At 7 pm Midnight Mass will take place in the Basilica of the Annunciation. This is an ancient tradition that sees Christians across the globe (including in Nazareth) come together for a jubilant celebration of the Nativity of Jesus who, as told by the Bible, was born in a manger, in a stable in Bethlehem. It is held at midnight since the tradition has it that this was the exact moment Jesus arrived in the world.
St. Joseph's Church, Nazareth, Israel. Photo credit: © Shutterstock
December 25th, 2022 - On Christmas Day itself, all over the city festive services and masses will be held. They will be incredibly joyful, with candles lit and carols and hymns sung. For Christian pilgrims, this really is one of the most special days of the year and, along with Jerusalem and Bethlehem, one of the most popular places in Israel to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
Nazareth is also just a short drive away from the Sea of Galilee (in Hebrew ‘the Kinneret’) which makes for a fine day out, whether you want to explore the many churches of Jesus' Ministry in Galilee, including the Church of the Apostles at Capernaum, the church on the Mount of Beatitudes (where Jesus gave his famous ‘Sermon on the Mount’) or the Church of the Multiplication (where Jesus performed the miracle of transforming two fishes and five loaves of bread into sufficient food to feed a crowd of five thousand).
And for anyone wanting to undergo the experience of baptism, close to the city of Tiberias lies Yardenit, where Christian pilgrims can immerse themselves in the Jordan River, much the way John the Baptist immersed Jesus, thousands of years ago, we offer both organized tours and day trips all across Israel.
And because we’ve been in business for over 25 years, we have a wealth of experience. Our guides are top-notch, friendly, informative, and professional, and speak many languages. Finally, we use comfortable transport, with air-conditioning for hot summer days. Contact us by email or phone to find out more about our tours or have a read of our blog to find out more about the amazing country of Israel. You can also join our Christmas Eve in Bethlehem Tour with pickups from Jerusalem and Tel Aviv!
Rooftop view of Nazareth, Israel. Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash