In Israel this December? Celebrate Christmas in Bethlehem

A Jewish nation, Israel doesn’t celebrate Christmas – it’s not an official Holiday. Hence, you must not expect major Holiday-themed parties and get-together happening during the 25th of December. This day passes by just like any other ordinary day of the year.

Absolutely no Yuletide celebration?

Nativity Church's bright lights

Of course not. You can’t say that celebrations in commemoration of this special day is absent in this country. Of course, we are all aware of the vibrant celebration of the Mass for the Child Jesus at Bethlehem Nativity Church. Apart from this, there is a semblance of the Yule-tide Holiday is what you can experience if you decide to fly to Israel on December and stay at the Jaffa side of Tel Aviv.

This part of the city is where you can find a significant concentration of Arab-Christian families that observe major Christian traditions and holidays.

Apart from Yafo, other places in Israel where Arab Christians are found to be celebrating this special day are Haifa, Jerusalem, and Nazareth, among others. During Christmastime, they decorate their homes with bright, multicolored Christmas rope lights shaped in stars, or just hanging out to line the edges of their windows.

Chanukkah

chanukkah lights

Somewhat a Jewish version of Christmas is the Chanukkah, or Festival of Lights. This is a grand Jewish holiday that’s celebrated around December. Many do think of Chanukkah as the Jewish Christmas, since it is also a time of gift-giving among Jews.

Where to buy Xmas Decors in Tel Aviv

If you’re in TA, you can find great X-mas decors along Yerushalayim Street. Specifically at the corner of Hayamit Street is where there are few stores that sell Xmas trees of all heights and sizes, lights of various colors, inflatable Santa Claus figures, and plastic bells, stars, and balls of red, gold, and white.

You can also drop by at Shuk HaCarmel and find several Russians shops halfway through the market streets selling attractive decorations. More often than not, you see holiday decors and trinkets at Shuk HaPishpeshim, especially during busy Friday mornings.

christmas trees in yerushalayim

St Anthony Parish Church along Yefet St. regularly holds a Yuletide Bazaar that sells all types of holiday goodies, wines, and decorations. Once, I got for myself a nice knitted cap and bottles of wine from Galilee.

Solemn Bethlehem Mass

If you desire to have a truly meaningful Xmas, you might want to consider going to Bethlehem, the town (O, little town of Bethlehem…) where Jesus was born. My first holiday outside my country was spent in Israel.

I attended the three-hour Midnight Mass at the Church of the Nativity on December 24, 2005, and despite drenching wet and feeling cold from the wintry rain, this Bethlehem mass was a glorious and most wonderful Christian experience for me.

After the mass, we wandered outside the church and chanced upon shops that sold food stuff and X-mas decors. I couldn’t help but marvel at the great variety of Yuletide decorations, particularly ones that depicted the nativity scene.

How to go

Bethlehem Nativity Church

Expect at least two hours of travel if you’re coming from Tel Aviv City proper since Bethlehem is around 35 miles away. However, you might encounter a bit of a problem in entering the place because of border issues.

It would be easier if you hire a sherut with a driver who has had the experience (and permit) of going in and out of the town. Much better if your driver is a local of the place.

This quaint and holy town, put simply, is one of the best places to go to when you travel to Israel. It is a must-see site if you decide to visit around December; if only to have to chance of experiencing the most solemn Bethlehem Nativity Church’s Christmas Mass.