Christmas in Israel
Nazareth town square
Tens of thousands of tourists from around the world will be arriving in Israel in the coming weeks to celebrate Christmas in the land where Christmas began. Churches throughout Israel will hold services celebrating Christmas on December 24th and 25th. Orthodox churches will celebrate Christmas on January 6th and 7th.
In Bethlehem, for those people holidaying in Jerusalem, Israel’s Ministry of Tourism is offering free 24-hour shuttle service to nearby Bethlehem. Buses will leave according to demand from Jerusalem’s Mar Elias Monastery (in the south of the Israeli capital) to Bethlehem’s Manger Square. The ancient Basilica of the Nativity and the Franciscan Church of the Nativity mark the traditional site of the birth of Jesus. Buses will operate non-stop in both directions from midday on December 24th for 24 hours. Representatives of the Israel Ministry of Tourism will welcome tourists and pilgrims at Rachel’s Crossing with a gift bag containing gifts and chocolate in the spirit of the holiday. If you want tickets for midnight mass these can be requested, by clicking here, anytime before December 17th.
In Nazareth, the annual Christmas market takes place in the hometown of Jesus from December 11th until the 15th. Located near Mary’s Well, the traditional Christmas market sells Christmas decorations and gifts. The annual lighting of the Nazareth Christmas Tree takes place at dusk on December 11th adjacent to the Greek Orthodox Church. The traditional Christmas Parade through the main streets of Nazareth takes place at 3.30pm on the 24th. The parade ends at the plaza in front of the Basilica of the Annunciation. At 5.30, the fireworks begin.
Jerusalem’s annual Hamshushalayim Festival, which takes place from December 19th-21th, will feature live music, theatre and dance performances, night time walking tours and culinary events. During this time, holidaymakers will have free entrance to museums and cultural centres in Jerusalem including the Israel Museum, Museum on the Seam and the Bible Lands Museum.
Like many countries, Israel has seen a surge in visitor numbers recently. In October, 340,000 people arrived, up by 35,000 over the previous October. Next year more will come because of the introduction of more low-cost flights. easyJet is starting a direct service to Tel-Aviv and El Al launched a new low-frills airline last week called UP. Initially UP won’t link the UK or Ireland to Israel but, if successful, one of the major airports over here must be a possibility.
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