Christmas in Bethlehem

There’s no better place to celebrate Christmas than at home. But Bethlehem, the place where it all happened, comes in a close second. This was my first Christmas away from family, but a group of us from our lab traveled to Bethlehem to celebrate and stayed there overnight on Christmas Eve. The next few entries will take you through the night and the next day in chronological order (with some history first).

Christ was born in mid April (scholars say the 17th) in Bethlehem, but Protestants and Catholics celebrate his birthday on the 25th (it’s celebrated on January 6th in the Armenian Orthodox Church and on the 7th in the Eastern Orthodox Church). Christmas in Bethlehem is celebrated on all those days, usually starting with a processional marching through Manger Square, into the Basilica of Nativity and the adjacent St. Catherine’s Church, followed by celebrations and culminating in a midnight mass or service in one of the churches (and spilling into the square outside).

Bethlehem “includes” the smaller nearby towns of Beit Jala and Beit Sahour (where the Shepherd’s Fields – where the shepherds were told of Christ’s birth – are located), as well as the refugee camps of ‘Aida and Azza. Besides being the location of Christ’s birth, Bethlehem is also incredibly important for being the birth place of David, where he was crowned king, and for housing the Tomb of Rachel. Bethlehem in Hebrew is Beit Lehem or “House of Bread” – the h is again pronounced the throaty “huuh” sound, and in Arabic is Bayt Lahm or “House of Meat.” Hmmm. Bethlehem, as it is in the West Bank, is largely Palestinian an incredibly politically charged city. It is roughly 8km south of Jerusalem and, with the rest of the West Bank, is separated from Israel by the Israeli – West Bank Barrier.

Merry Christmas!

Note: I do have an opinion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a whole but I won’t be presenting that here. My photos are also aren’t meant to represent any opinion, I just took photos of everything¬† I could.


~ by jonathanmtsai on December 28, 2010.

One Response to “Christmas in Bethlehem”

  1. Wow Jon, I love the photos and the historical background. What an awesome place to celebrate Christmas. I really want to visit Israel and I love touring vicariously through your blog!

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