Christmas in Bethlehem - Where It All Began

What better place could you spend the holiday of Christmas? It’s simply the right place at the right time to find yourself in the heart of the Holy Land.

Bethlethem 2016 at Sunrise - Photo by Elaine L. Mura

Christmas is clearly the BIG holiday in Bethlehem, for very obvious reasons. Witness the twinkling lights and the festive atmosphere of a town poised for greatness – or at least for some serious TV time. The center of the town? That’s Manger Square. For those few who don’t know where the name came from, you’ll just have to check your Bible.

Entering the Cave Under the Church of the Nativity - Photo by Elaine L. Mura

But some factoids are not as obvious. For all the Americans searching for a stable, you won’t find it in Bethlehem. The Baby Jesus was actually born in a cave – with the animal manger a few feet away.

The Birthplace of the Baby Jesus - Photo by Elaine L. Mura

The Manger Across the Way - Photo by Elaine L. Mura

But first, let’s visit Shepherds’ Fields, the spot where angels told the shepherds that the Messiah was born. Again, don’t look for a stable. The shepherds were apparently escaping the winter cold with their charges in – you guessed it – a cave. Even though illiterate and poor, the shepherds eagerly followed the angels’ directions.

Shepherds' Fields - Photo by Elaine L. Mura

A visit to the Holy Land wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Bethlehem, especially at Christmastime. It’s a town that goes high and low with a vengeance. Hills abound amid the barren desert landscape. Two thousand years ago, it was probably really just a town – or perhaps even a village – when Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem for a government census. In those days, they were required to return to the location of the husband’s birth, so off to Bethlehem they went despite Mary’s advanced pregnancy and the nip in the winter air. This was quite a journey when depending on only a tired donkey. They arrived in the Bethlehem of 2000 years ago; and Mary delivered her baby in the corner of a cave, as the tale goes, in the company of her husband, curious shepherds, and angels on high.

Entrance to Chapel over Shepherds' Cave - Photo by Elaine L. Mura

Inside Shepherds' Cave - Photo by Elaine L. Mura

Each year, Christmas celebrations ramp up as the 25th approaches. In fact, word has it that thousands make the pilgrimage to Bethlehem from all the over the world. The inside venues are packed, so that most of the pilgrims wait outside just to be near the sacred place. Shepherds’ Fields is flooded with people – and that’s not including the press, TV cameras, and the VIP’s who made the journey. The Church of the Nativity can hold only so many – again with people clustered outside observing the service on TV monitors. But the inconvenience doesn’t really matter to the sincere travelers.

Birthplace of Jesus - Photo by Elaine L. Mura

Church of the Nativity on Manger Squre - Photo by Elaine L. Mura

Visiting the Birthplace - Photo by Elaine L. Mura

Being in the Holy Land at one of the holiest times of the year for Christians the world over. That is what makes Bethlehem the center of the world on Christmas Eve.

Manger Square at Christmas In Front of the Church of the Nativity - Photo by Elaine L. Mura

Under the Christmas Tree - Photo by Elaine L. Mura

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