- Location:Bethlehem, Israel
- Significance: Event
- Attraction Type: Event, Religion, Parades
- Time: Christmas Eve (from December 24 to 25); You can also opt for January 6 or January 18, depending on your denomination.
- How to Reach: From Jerusalem, take Bus 22 from the Damascus Gate Bus Station. You can also take a taxi or drive from Jerusalem.
- Nearest Airport: Atarot Airport (officially Jerusalem International Airport)
Christmas is celebrated with a great degree of pomp and celebration all over the world. So, it is no surprise that the celebrations will be quite special in Bethlehem, the place where Christ was born. Millions of tourists, not only the religious and the devout, but also secular visitors belonging to other religions, arrive to celebrate and witness Christmas in Bethlehem, the greatest attractions being the parades undertaken by Christian groups of all denominations. Because of the ritualistic differences of the different Christian groups, Christmas in Bethlehem stretch for a long time, from December 25 to January 18.
Christmas Celebrations in Bethlehem
Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem are in many ways quite similar to the Christmas celebrations held elsewhere in the world. Streets are decorated with ribbons, lights and nativity mangers are created by families outside their homes. The usual festive flair is also present. Every Christian home has a cross painted on the door. However, there are certain rituals that are unique to the place, particularly the parades, processions and the Christmas plays.
Christmas Parade in Bethlehem
The Christmas parades passes through the Manger Square. Manger Square is the plaza just outside the Basilica of the Nativity — the place traditionally believed to be the birthplace of Jesus, and housing the Chapel of the Manger. The parade begins on the Christmas Eve in a picturesque way as crowds gather everywhere, including rooftops to get a view. Horsemen mounted on Arabian horses gallop past, along with mounted police personals. A solitary horseman on a jet black steed follows, carrying a cross in his hand. Then come the churchmen and the government officials. Then they solemnly enter the basilica of the nativity, and finally the grotto where a silver star marks the place of Christ’s birth.
One of the greatest spectacles of the Christmas parade in Bethlehem are the churchmen of different denominations pass by in their full traditional habits. The Protestants, the Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, the Greek Orthodox, the Russian Orthodox, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the Syrian Church and the Armenian Church are some of them. Thereafter they hold Christmas Eve services in their respective churches. However, the dates of the parade and the celebrations differ. While the Protestants and the Catholics hold their celebrations on January 25, all denominations of the Orthodox churches hold theirs on January 6 and the Armenian Church celebrates it on January 18.
Accommodation in Bethlehem
There are plenty of places to stay in Bethlehem, and they cater to travelers of all budget ranges. Fisant Guest House, Hoogland Guest House and Lavender Hill Country Estate are some of the luxury options you can consider. For the more budget conscious, there are the Lionsrock Lodge and Martelle’s Bed and Breakfast.