Christmas in Bethlehem
Christmas in Israel can be magical and a truly spiritual experience. There are services in local churches (mainly in Jerusalem, Nazareth and Bethlehem) as well as services held at the locations where Christmas events took place. Many tour buses leave Jerusalem on Christmas Eve to services in Shepherd’s Fields where an angel appeared to the shepherds on Christmas Eve. The tours continue to the Lutheran Church in Bethlehem and end off at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem for the Midnight Mass.
Of all the Christmas celebrations in Israel perhaps the largest and most moving is at the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve, where gather in Manger Square to be a part of the celebration of Jesus’ birth on the spot where the events unfolded.
Roman Catholics celebrate on the 24th December at Saint Catherine’s Church in Bethlehem, as well as on the 5th and 6th of January when the Epiphany is commemorated. Greek, Coptic, Romanian and Syrian Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas on the 6th of January in Bethlehem. In Nazareth there are Christmas Eve parades and firework displays as well as church services. In all over 90,000 foreign visitors arrive in Israel annually to celebrate Christmas.
Christmas in Bethlehem includes processions through the streets, carol singing and religious services which can all be an extremely spiritual experience. It is important to remember that throughout the rest of Israel you could probably not even notice that it is Christmas as unlike America and Europe the streets and stores are not decorated, there is no Santa ringing a bell outside shops and Christmas music cannot be heard in the streets.