Christmas in Bethlehem

The annual lighting of the Christmas tree in Bethlehem is a major event in this city in the West Bank—one of the largest Palestinian Christian communities in the Middle East. The city is named in the Bible as Jesus’s birthplace. The “timing” of Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem varies due to differences in the Christian calendar: Protestants and Catholics celebrate December 25, Greek and other Orthodox churches celebrate on January 6, and Armenian Christians as late as January 18.

Christmas services are led by these diverse groups: Protestants, Catholics, Greek Orthodox, among many others. Processions will pass by the Church of the Nativity, thought to be the oldest existing church in the world still in use today. Traditions vary, but the celebration of a Messiah proclaimed in Luke 2 is presented as a singular event: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (2:11, NRSV).

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