In Bethlehem, Israel, the birthplace of Christ, December 25th is treated as just another usual working day. It was at this place that Jesus Christ was born and thus the name Holy Land. One can find travelers and spiritualists flocking this pilgrimage during the Christmas season to visit the legendary cave that is believed to house a 14-pointed Silver Star on the floor as a mark of the birthplace of Christ. The celebrations in Bethlehem extend for quite a long period for all obvious reasons. There are different appellations among the Christians who celebrate Christmas on different days. While the Roman Catholics and Protestants celebrate Christmas on 25th December, the Greek, Syrian and orthodox Christian calendar declared Christmas to be on 6th January, which happens to be the last day of Christmas celebrations. The Armenian Christians observe Christmas on January 18th. Whatever be the date, Christmas in Holy Land is always dominated by a melange of festivities of various kinds - the choirs sing carols while the Palestinian Boy-Scout plays the Bagpipers and a Palestinian boy dresses up as the Santa Claus.
Christmas Customs in the Holy Land
Read about Christmas and its traditions in Holy Land and Christmas customs from Bethlehem.
Christmas in the Holy Land
- Since Christmas celebrations are held on different days here, Bethlehem sees a horde of separate services being held in the respective churches of Catholics, Protestants, Greeks, Syrians and Armenians.
- The common Christmas meal here comprises of turkey — cooked with pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg and stuffed with rice along with meat, pine nuts and almonds.
- On December 25th morning, kids open their gifts before breakfast. Later, families and friends go to church to offer prayers and services and greet each other. At dusk, the Protestant groups sing carols. The Catholic Church priests then blesses the family members with water and families take a sip.
- When it comes to the Christmas of the Greek Orthodox Church, 6th of January, a special church service is held where the cross is dipped in water and families are blessed with it. This water is then taken home and three sips of it are consumed by each family member before eating anything.
- Apart from the Syrians and the Greek Orthodox, the Palestinian community also celebrates Christmas on the 25th but not with the same enthusiasm as the Christians.
- In Bethlehem, on the 25th, Christmas services are held in the fortress-like church of the Nativity and the Manger Square where the church is lit up with Christmas lights. The streets and the market are decorated with lights and plays are staged on roads. The Christmas parade and processions held by the different Christian communities pass through the Manger square and place a figure of the Christ child in the church. Christmas eve mass is held at the Nativity church.
Facts Related to Christmas in Bethlehem
- The Protestants celebrate Christmas in different ways in their church. There are Christmas services and excursion held in the local churches.
- The services of Roman Catholics starts on 24th December and focus on St. Catherine’s Church, which is adjacent to the Orthodox Roman basilica of the Nativity. Other than that, special services are held on the 5th and 6th of January to observe Epiphany.
- Armenians celebrate Christmas on January 18th and their services are held around the Basilica of the Nativity.
The birth-place of Christ still is an enigma for people all over the world. And the least of it all comes from the fact that so many communities celebrate Christmas on so many dates there. This just proves od's stance on freewill.