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Church of Nativity by David Roberts 1839

Christmas in Bethlehem

Latin Patriarch's Entry in Bethlehem during the early 21st century

Latin Patriarch's Entry in Bethlehem in the early 20th century

Every year's highlight in Bethlehem is Christmas. There are actually three celebrations: the Western observance occurs on December 25, according to the Gregorian calendar; the Orthodox is celebrated on January 6, according to the older Julian calendar; and finally the Armenian on January 19.

Orthodox women praying at the Nativitiy Church in the early 20th century

On these days, the town is festive with lights and banners, and the churches are full with worshippers and visitors. Carols pour from loud-speakers in the crowded Manager Square, and brisk trade is done in the carved olive wood and mother-of-pearl souvenirs for which Bethlehem is renowned.

Among the exciting aspects of Bethlehem's Christmas are the parades of Palestinian scouts through the town of Bethlehem. They come together in Manger Square to greet each Patriarch on his arrival from Jerusalem.  In the past some scout processions started and marched from Rachel's tomb to Manger Square through Star Street. This is the route which is followed every Christmas Eve by the clergy of Jerusalem, led by the Patriarch as they march in a solemn procession to the historic Church of Nativity. As they proceed to Manager Square, they are met by local clergy of Bethlehem. Troops from various sectarian groupings march together in front of the Patriarchs' processions through the winding streets of the town, with local people and foreign pilgrims, crowded together. Crowds of up to 100,000 visitors and tourists from around the world cram up the square from the morning to watch the procession. When each Patriarch meets the dignitaries and then enters the church, the scouts disperse. The climax on Christmas Eve for the Roman Catholics is the elaborate midnight mass in the presence of dignitaries and diplomats. Other churches have their own special services in Bethlehem and Jerusalem. In the evening the crowds gather at the Manger Square to listen to various choirs and orchestras which sing Christmas carols. On Christmas day many people go to the Shepherds' Field Church in Beit Sahour to attend afternoon prayers in the old subterranean grotto and to watch the procession of local clergy to the Shepherds' Field Church joined by the boys scouts complete with bands.


Terra Sancta Scouts 2007

Saint Joseph Scouts 2007


Merry Christmas to All


Happy New Year 2009


Source: Bethlehem 2000: A Guide to Bethlehem and its Surroundings by Dr. & Mrs. Qustandi Shomali.



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