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Christmas in Bethlehem
Beata / Bethlehem - Posts
It was an amazing feeling to wake up in the morning and see our garden covered with white snow that fell overnight. Some of our lemon and orange trees, still bearing their fruits, bowed down under snow’s weight. There was such an unusual contrast between the snow’s frosty whiteness and the vivid orange, yellow and green plants.
But the best moment arrived when the sky cleared and we could see the Basilica of the Nativity in the middle of the Old City of Bethlehem from our window. Its roof was completely covered with a layer of snow and the hills of the Judean wilderness in the background were unusually white.
“So Joseph [and Mary] also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem […] While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. (Luke 2:4-6)
Celebrating Christmas in Bethlehem, the town where Jesus was born, is a magical, once in a lifetime experience for many people. The fact that most Christmas events occur on Manger Square, just couple of meters from the Nativity Grotto – the place of Christ’s birth, makes it even more unique.
Last week, thous
Christmas is a time of celebration and reunion. Thus, it is a common practice among Holy Land Christian communities to visit members of their families and neighbours during this festive period. The families visit in two groups – one family will visit while another is hosting guests at home.
When entering a home, it is appropriate for the guest to admire all the beautiful Christmas decorations, lights, Christmas tableware, and, of course, the very decorative Christmas trees with mghrara – a cave representing the Nativity scene, made from colorful paper and containing olive wood figures of the Holy Family, Magi and shepherds etc.
Gospel of Luke mentions Nazareth in Galilee to be the place where Virgin Mary was told by the Angel Gabriel that she would bore Jesus. Also there, she married Joseph. However, it was in the town of Bethlehem where Jesus was born. One can ask: Why spouses decided to walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem, while Virgin Mary was in such an advanced pregnancy? That was indeed a long journey, which might have taken them from four up to seven days. The answer can be found in the Biblical verses:
"In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. […] And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from
“You are a garden locked up, my sister, my bride; you are a spring enclosed, a sealed fountain.” (Song of Songs 4:12)
Imagine taking a walk in the Hortus Conclusus – the enclosed garden of the Song of Songs - the place, where according to the legend, the biblical king Solomon disported himself among the flourishing gardens.
“Where the Lord Jesus was born there a basilica was built on Constantine’s command.” That’s how the 4th century anonymous pilgrim from France describes in his writings the world famous Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which in late June 2012 became one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Emperor Constantine’s church was built on the site of the Nativity Grotto and was completed in 339 A.D. The construction was initiated by the mother of the emperor, St. Helena, who converted to Christianity. But how did she know this spot was the site of Jesus’s birth?
According to the Julian Calendar, which is the liturgical calendar of the Oriental and Orthodox Churches, the Holy Week has begun with the holiday of Palm Sunday on 8th of April 2012. The feast was celebrated to commemorate the day of Jesus' triumphal entry to Jerusalem almost 2000 years ago. The celebration "Palm Sunday" took its name after the events that happened in Jerusalem at that day, when people praising the Lord, welcomed Him with palm branches as He rode into the city on a donkey's colt. "A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road." (Matthew 21:8)
This year, on behalf of Travelujah, I had a chance to participate in the celebrations of Palm Sunday by Bethlehem's Orthodox and Syriac Christian communities.
Palm Sunday is celebrated on the sixth and last Sunday of the Lent. The celebration always falls on the Sunday before Easter and marks the beginning of the Holy Week. It commemorates the day of Jesus' triumphal entry to Jerusalem almost 2000 years ago. The feast is called "Palm Sunday" because the people of Jerusalem praising the Lord, welcomed Him with palm branches as He rode into the city on a donkey's colt. "A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road." (Matthew 21:8)
This year, Palm Sunday was celebrated by the Catholic community of Bethlehem, the town of Jesus' birth. Hundreds of worshippers ga
Every Friday during Lent, Catholic Christians of Bethlehem gather in different places of the town to perform the spiritual Way of the Cross, which commemorates the final events of Christ's crucifixion - which also happened on a Friday. The Via Dolorosa consists of 14 Stations which represent Jesus' final walk through the streets of Jerusalem, carrying the Cross.
During the procession the faithful move from one "station" to the next and stop
Feast of the Holy Innocents, also called Childermas, or Innocents' Day, is a holiday commemorating the massacre of the children by King Herod in his attempt to kill the infant Jesus. These children were regarded by the early church as the first martyrs. The Feast is celebrated since the 6th century in the Western Christian churches on December 28 and in the Eastern churches on December 29.
The Feast of the Holy Innocents is annually celebrated in the town of Bethlehem, the place where the lives of the Innocents were taken 2000 years ago.
Bethlehem is my new home since September 2010. This charming town in the Holy Land is definitely worth a visit! Discover Bethlehem with my blog :-) Other places are coming soon...