One of the hardest parts of traveling for so long is that we have to spend holidays away from friends and family. We wanted to do something special for Christmas since we couldn’t be with our loved ones. Thankfully, we’re in Israel, where it’s easy to do something special. We celebrated Christmas in Bethlehem, spending the holiday in the birthplace of Jesus.
SHEPHERDS’ FIELD AND THE STAR
We joined Abraham Tours for the 45-minute bus ride from our hostel to Bethlehem. After leaving Abraham Hostel, the tour first stopped in Shepherds’ Field. In the New Testament, this is where the shepherds saw the star and followed it to Bethlehem and the birthplace of Jesus. There was a small chapel here built into a cave, and a church shaped like a shepherd’s tent above the cave.
CHRISTMAS IN BETHLEHEM
Our tour then took us into the heart of Bethlehem. We walked to Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity, perhaps the oldest church in Christianity. This church was built on top of the cave where Christ was born. Manger Square had a giant Christmas tree that reminded us a bit of Times Square. Bands from all over the world played holiday songs in different languages, and pilgrims filled the square. Cassie is Christian, so being here on this night was on her travel bucket list. Check that one off.
There was definitely a festive mood in Bethlehem, as pilgrims waited for midnight mass. Very few are allowed into the Church of the Nativity for mass, but people are just as happy to watch on screens set up in Manger Square. We enjoyed taking it all in. Two years ago when we were in Israel, we drove around the Sea of Galilee which is where Jesus preached. Now we were able to see where Jesus was born.
There are a list of events and festivals around the world that I want to see. Carnival, Oktoberfest, the World Cup, etc. Christmas in Bethlehem was definitely on the list, and I’m glad we went. It’s an experience. Much less of the commercialism that we’ve become so accustomed to in America. More of what (I think) Christmas is supposed to be about. But what do I know? I’m Jewish!
If you’re in the Holy Land but aren’t able to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem, we found a great website for other options. Bethlehem is certainly not your only choice. There’s a lot going on in Jerusalem and Nazareth and many other places in Israel. Merry Christmas from 42nd Class!
Want to celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem with us? Click here.