Since, Bethlehem is the holy place where Jesus was born, the celebrations are highly religious. The festivities are somewhat familiar to the celebrations in Europe and North America, where the streets are illuminated with lights, plays are performed and Christmas markets are seen everywhere. The processes of Christmas celebrations are long, as different Christian communities observe Christmas on different days and the scenes from nativity mark many street corners. Thousands of followers make pilgrimages to Bethlehem every year and the celebrations are covered by major newspaper and TV channels. One more interesting fact is the market of 'Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem' which is a world-famous marketplace, a concept adopted from the German Christmas holiday markets. It features more than 150 artisans during the four weeks of revelries. Bethlehem hosts the Christmas celebrations in warm, leisurely and friendly manner. There are large number of customs and rituals which characterize the festival of Christmas, which are usually not celebrated in other countries. The amalgamation of several denominations makes the festivities captivating and unique as well.
Customs, Traditions & Celebrations
In Bethlehem Christmas does is not celebrated on a particular day. Christian denominations, namely, Catholics, Protestants, Greek, Orthodox, Ethiopians, Armenians and others, differ in terms of Christmas celebrations and also the day observing the birth of Jesus Christ. Read on to know about the major events conducted by these denominations in Bethlehem.
The Catholic Roman service commence on December 24 in the St. Catherine's Church, which is Catholic. The church is next to the Orthodox Basilica of the Nativity. The servicers associated with the Feast of Epiphany are observed on January 5 and 6. Midnight masses take place on December 25, to celebrate the birth time of Jesus Christ.
The Protestants have a variegated way of celebrating Christmas. Some conduct services in their local churches, whereas some others may arrange tours to witness the special services in the Shepherd's fields or the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. The Anglican Cathedral of St. George, the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and the YMCA are among the churches of Jerusalem which organize trips to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve.
Orthodox Christians, which comprise Greek Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Romanian Orthodox and others, celebrate Christmas on January 6. The celebrations and services are a long process like the Roman Catholic celebrations. Basilica of the Nativity is hub of most Orthodox events.
For the Armenian Christians Christmas falls on January 18. Most Armenian festivities are held in the Basilica of the Nativity. The processions of Christmas pass through the Manger Square, which is considered to be the exact place where Jesus's birth took place.
The Festival Of Christmas
The celebrations in the town of Bethlehem include lighting the Christmas tree in the middle of Village Green, hay-rides, holiday music, and shopping at the Christmas Markets. It also hosts the 10-day 'Musikfest' festival, which attracts tourists from many places. The Musikfest festival of Bethlehem is among the largest free music festivals of USA. Music, art, beer and fun, is what the Musikfest festival is all about. Every year the festival witnesses a gathering of over a million people.
The Traditional Food
The Christmas meal encompasses of turkey which is cooked with cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg and is stuffed with rice. Pine nuts and almonds are also a part of the stuffing. The dessert can be baklava and wheat pudding. In some other traditions, the first week of December is known as Bourbara, which is in commemoration of St. Barbara. Lots of wheat porridge is prepared mixed with sugared fruits which are then given to the destitute and the less fortunate.
One more famous custom is the parade which takes place on Christmas Eve. Thousands of tourists throng the doorways and the roof of Basilica to get a glimpse of the procession. The procession is headed by galloping horsemen alongside the police, straddling on Arabian horses. A man is seen following the team riding on a black pony or mare, carrying a cross. He is then followed by the churchmen and the government executives. As the procession enters the threshold of the Church, an image of the Holy Child is placed. The visitors enter the Church later which leads into a cave, where a silver star suggests the birth place of Jesus Christ.
The holy land of Bethlehem is one of the most revered places. Millions of people pay visit to the birth place of Jesus to experience the ambiance of absolute sanctity, which heightens with the beginning Christmas. Even more charming are the medley of traditions pursued by the various Christian denominations.
Bethlehem is regarded as the birth place of Jesus Christ and naturally, the celebrations are conducted with grandiose. The article will tell you about the various traditions and customs in Bethlehem.