Coming to Israel for Christmas truly makes the “Reason for the Season” the center of the holidays! It is a special festive and spiritual experience for Christian Pilgrims and visitors. While Israel is a Jewish state and therefore doesn’t celebrate the day as a holiday, they do still have celebrations of the blessed day throughout the country during the month of December. Immersing yourself in the sites of the Christmas story will not only make the Christmas visit very special, but also every Christmas after as you recount your trip and read the scriptures in a whole new light. Christmas will indeed never be the same!
What can you expect your Christmas in Israel to include?
Christmas in Nazareth:
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, but he was raised in Nazareth and the Christmas story begins there when the angel Gabriel visited Mary and told her of God’s calling for her give birth to his son (Luke 1:26-38).
The area celebrates this rich history the entire month of December with the following events:
December 6th- The official lighting of the Christmas tree on Paulo VI Street will take place on with live music offered by a variety of different artists.
December 13th- The Christmas tree lighting at Mary’s Well.
December 13-20- The Municipality of Nazareth will holding a festive Christmas market – a street fair with food and arts and crafts.
On December 19- a festive Hanukah and Christmas concert will be performed by the Galilee Orchestra, the Upper Galilee Choir and singer Keren Hadar, directed by Yishai Shtekler.
December 24th- Thousands of youth together with the leaders of the Christian communities, parade through the main street of Nazareth to celebrate the birth of Christ, ending at the plaza in front of the Basilica of the Annunciation and followed by a festive firework display.
December 25th- Christmas Mass will be performed in the Basilica of the Annunciation at 19:00.
Christmas in Jerusalem
There are many Christmas celebrations taking place in Jerusalem during December.
December 6- Children of Jerusalem are invited to decorate the Christmas tree at the YMCA, sing carols, and ask Santa for wishes.
December 18-19- The YMCA will also hold a Christmas holiday bazaar with stalls full of original Christmas goods and crafts, music from the tower bells, Santa Claus actors granting children’s wishes, snow machines, workshops for children, and more.
December 20th- For over 60 years, the YMCA has provided 600 of Jerusalem’s neediest children a day of fun and entertainment that includes receiving gift packages to take home.
December 24th- The annual Christmas carols concert at the YMCA, with Professor Gabi Scheffler – Bells (CARILLON), Woodwind Quintet, the “Inbalim” Ensemble, Sounds of Gilo choir, the Jerusalem International YMCA youth choir and the Israeli Opera soloists.
Christmas services will be held in churches throughout Jerusalem, including the Church of the Nativity, the Church of St. Catherine, and St. Stephen’s Church.
Christmas in Tel Aviv-Jaffa:
From November until January the old Jaffa port will host its first ever Christmas market. A spectacular Christmas tree, beautiful lights and snow cannons are only a few of the holiday traditions that will set the mood for this winter festival. The market will host dozens of stalls packed with fresh local produce such as olive oil and fruits and vegetables straight from the farms, unique delicacies from various cooks and chefs and winter holiday goods for all faiths.
Christmas in Haifa:
Haifa celebrates a unique and special event, the “Holiday of Holidays” festival that is taking place from December 8-24, 2015. This holiday, in its for the 22nd year, symbolizes the values of coexistence, living together in peace and harmony, and mutual respect of all six religions in the city. The holiday events on consecutive weekends take place in the Arab Wadi Nisnas neighborhood and extend to the German Colony at the foot of the Baha’i’ Gardens.
Among the featured events: an antique fair, an arts and crafts fair, special authentic foodstuffs prepared by residents of Wadi Nisnas and music by artists of all ethnicities, and more. On December 17 there will be a special international Peace Concert at Beit HaGefen performed by Italian musical band BandAdriatica.
Christmas in Bethlehem:
During the Christmas holidays, the Ministry of Tourism will offer free transportation, helping pilgrims travelling between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Buses will leave according to demand from the Carta car park at Mamilla Boulevard, via the Mar Elias Monastery to the Church of the Nativity, and back again and will operate every half-hour from 15:00 on 24 December through to 03:00 on 25 December. Representatives from the Ministry of Tourism will welcome tourists and pilgrims at Rachel’s Crossing with sweets in the spirit of the holiday. Visitors wishing to participate in Christmas mass in Bethlehem can order tickets on-line.
Copyright: Israel Ministry of Tourism.
If you are interested in visiting Israel during the Christmas season, please contact Immanuel Tours and let us create an itinerary to remember!