It’s a few hours before Christmas. Everybody was excited to be spending Christmas in the most significant place of all, Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ. Everybody was curious as to how Christmas is being spent in Holy Land and how similar or different it is from what we do in our own countries.
We found out that Christmas tradition in Bethlehem is no different.
After our walking tour in Jerusalem, some of my tour mates and I went around for a walk. The streets were busy. Shops and shoppers were, too, for last-minute Christmas shopping. Some locals dressed in Santa Claus costume were in the streets. Christmas carols were playing.
In the hotel, we were busy talking about our plans for the Eve. Most of us decided to go to the midnight mass and in hopes of seeing the Pope.
An hour or so before midnight, we started walking towards the Manger Square where the Church of the Nativity is located. We were joined by a lot more pilgrims and locals in the streets, all going to the same destination. The night was chilly, the mood was festive, but security was tight especially in the streets leading to the Manger Square.
It was quite an uphill walk from our hotel.
Below photos were taken in front of the Church of the Nativity.
It was Christmas but the police were everywhere which gave the festive atmosphere an intimidating feel. We understand the need to tighten security as the Palestinian President, among other important personalities were present. I just wished it didn’t have to be that way.
Our group was hoping to hear mass inside the church. Nobody could tell us how, but apparently we learned that we had to obtain tickets in advance. We didn’t have tickets. Hearing Christmas Eve mass inside the church wasn’t going to happen.
There was no projector installed outside the church for people who wish to stay and hear mass. We couldn’t understand the voices coming from the speaker. The group stayed for a while to observe then the police started to drive people away. It was confusing as we didn’t know what was going on. Our group left.
We walked back to the hotel, this time taking a different route. We passed by shops that were still open and overflowing with people.
We decided to celebrate Christmas in the hotel instead. We opened the Cana wines we bought and whatever food stuff we have to share. We sang a few Christmas songs and had fun taking photos as mementos of our Christmas in Bethlehem.
It was Christmas with my Indian tour mates.
A little later, I went back to my room and called it a night. I made a noche Buena corner which has the strawberries from Caesaria, oranges from Bethlehem and various gifts from our travel agency staff, our tour guide and some local shops.
On Christmas at Day 5, we explore Bethlehem and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.