Christian Holidays in Israel
As with other Christian communities across the globe Israeli Christians celebrate the traditional religious holidays although as a Jewish country the Christian holidays are not national holidays. If you want to enjoy Christian holidays in Israel you should head for the largest Christian communities which congregate in Nazareth, Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Israel is home to a number of Christian denominations including Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Ethiopians and Copts as well as other smaller denominations. Sometimes the denominations celebrate the Christian holidays on different days and have additional holy days unique to their faith.
Lighting candles in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Photo credit: © Dmitry Mishin
Christmas in Israel
Christmas in Israel is observed by most Christians on December 25th. Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on January 6th– 7th 2014 with a procession from Jerusalem’s Old City to the Monastery of Mar Elias and on to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem where midnight services are held. Armenians celebrate Christmas on January 19th.
Holy Week in Israel
Holy Week begins with the celebration of Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, culminating in the commemoration of the Mystical or Last Supper on Holy or Maundy Thursday and the Passion of Jesus on Holy or Good Friday. Holy Week concludes with Christ's repose in death and descent into Hades on Good or Holy Saturday.
Palm Sunday in Israel
Good Friday in Israel
Holy Saturday in IsraelHoly Saturday sees the Patriarch perform the Ceremony of the Holy Fire as he lights a candle in the tomb and soon the church is full of Christians holding lit candles.
Easter in Israel
Easter Sunday the Orthodox Armenian and Catholic communities attend mass in churches across the country including the Holy Sepulchre. Protestants attend the Sunrise Service at the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem. Easter Monday at Emmaus is marked by masses in various Catholic churches and some pilgrims make the 30km walk from Jerusalem to Emmaus-Latrun for mass. More information on Easter celebrations in Israel can be found in the articles Easter in Jerusalem and Easter in Israel.
Ascension Day in IsraelAscension Day is celebrated by Catholics at the Chapel of the Ascension, a midnight mass continues until morning followed by a procession to Viri Galilaei Church and back. Pentecost is celebrated 50 days after Easter when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles.
Exaltation of the Holy Cross is celebrated by Catholics with mass at Calvary in the Holy Sepulchre; an Orthodox evening procession goes from the Chapel of St. Helena in Deir el-Sultan to the Holy Sepulchre and the Armenians celebrate with morning Divine Liturgy in St. James Cathedral, Jerusalem.
Other Christian Holidays in IsraelIn addition to the above Christian holidays in Israel, Catholics celebrate many additional feast days and events including the Eve of Epiphany; the Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated with a procession through Nazareth to the Church of the Annunciation where vespers are held and mass the following day.
The Visitation of the Virgin Mary is celebrated in Ein Kerem and Jerusalem culminating with a procession through the Christian Quarter; Nativity of St. John the Baptist; on Assumption Day Catholics gather at the Abbey of Dormition on Mt. Zion; Nativity of Mary is celebrated with a mass at St. Anne’s Church in Jerusalem and the celebration of the Immaculate Conception.
Additional Orthodox Christian holy days include the Feast of St. Basil; the Feast of St. Simeon is celebrated in the house of St. Simeon in Katamon, Jerusalem; the Dormition of Theotokos and the Nativity of Mary are celebrated in Jerusalem’s St. Anne’s Church.
The Russian Orthodox Church celebrates the finding of the head of St. John the Baptist at the monastery on the Mount of Olives with morning services. The Ethiopian Orthodox Christian community celebrates Timkat in Jerusalem Old City’s Ethiopian Church. Many of the events mentioned for Orthodox Christians are observed by the Ethiopian community.
In addition to the other Christian holidays, the Armenian community celebrates the Feast of St. James the Minor with a service in St. James Cathedral in Jerusalem; the Feast of St. Vartan the Warrior is celebrated with morning services in St. James Cathedral and the Feast of the Holy Cross of Varak is celebrated in the Holy Sepulchre.
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Armenian Catholic Patriarchate, Jerusalem. Photo credit: © Shutterstock