You might have spend Christmas Eve in Rome, Jerusalem or your home town, but nothing compares with the authenticity of spending this holy night in the place where the events of Christmas Eve actually took place – Bethlehem. On 24th of December you can literally be meters away from where the nativity story unfolded.
Just over 2,000 years ago Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem; they came from their home town, Nazareth in northern Israel, and had traveled this long distance to the town of Joseph’s birth where they had to register for a national census. On arrival in the town they found that all rooms were already rented out to other people who had come to Bethlehem for the same reason. Finally the couple found a place to stay in a barn or manger. Today the manger is identified as the Grotto of the Nativity in the Church of the Nativity, which is adjacent to St. Catherine Church on Manger Square in Bethlehem.
On 24th December you can dine at a restaurant on Manger Square, just meters from the very spot where the savior was born. Manger Square fills up with pilgrims from around the world who gather here to share this moment with other Christians. The atmosphere is one of harmony, brotherly love and peace among all mankind. At midnight the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem holds a Midnight Mass in St. Catherine Church and it is shown on large screens in Manger Square and televised around the globe live.
On Christmas Eve 2013 the sights and sounds in Bethlehem are different to those that Mary and Joseph would have uncounted. In Biblical times Bethlehem was a small rural community surrounded by terraced agricultural fields, orchards and vineyards. Today the Palestinian city has a population of about 25,000 and each Christmas season the city welcomes thousands of visitors to celebrate the birth of Christ. The surroundings reflect the deep respect for Christianity and the holy night. The streets of Bethlehem are decorated with Christmas decorations and bright lights; Christmas carols can be heard coming from the city’s Churches and stores and stalls sell Christmas souvenirs, wood carved nativity scenes, candles, Crucifixes and traditional treats.
No Christmas celebration can compare with Christmas Eve on Manger Square, Bethlehem, whether you’re Christian or not the camaraderie and shared joy among the visitors is truly unique.