Gordon Tours Israel Blog

Christmas in Israel

Icon December 18, 2018
Icon By Shai Navon
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Christmas in Israel is truly magical. There’s nothing like spending Christmas in the place where Jesus was born and lived. As a Jewish state, Christmas Day is a working day for most Israelis, but that doesn’t stop the festivities from taking place in places like Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nazareth and Haifa.

Christmas in Bethlehem

You’d expect the birthplace of Jesus himself to be full of Christmas cheer, and you won’t be disappointed. Bethlehem begins gearing up for Christmas with the lighting of the Christmas tree in Manger Square on December 1st, and the Christmas atmosphere doesn’t end until well after Epiphany. Orthodox Christmas is marked with liturgy and vespers on January 6th and Armenian Christmas on January 18th, with midnight Mass.

Manger Square is the focal point of Bethlehem’s Christmas events, with processions passing through the square most days of the month. By far the most important Christmas event in Bethlehem is Midnight Mass at St. Catherine’s Church on Christmas Eve. You can only get into the church if you have an invitation, but the service is screened live in Manger Square. Don’t miss the Grotto of the Nativity, believed by most Christians to be the precise birthplace of Jesus, and the Well of the Magi, both located in the atmospheric Basilica of the Nativity.

Christmas in Nazareth

Christmas in Israel

You can’t help absorbing the Christmas spirit as you stroll the narrow cobbled streets where Jesus walked, and admire the tinsel and other Christmas decorations that transform the town into a seasonal wonderland. Nazareth hosts many Christmas concerts, tree lighting ceremonies, and festive events, including a famous Christmas tree next to Mary’s Well. Nazareth’s Christmas market is an annual fixture, taking place over the week before Christmas. Another famous Nazareth Christmas tradition is the Christmas Parade on December 23rd, which ends in a spectacularly festive fireworks display. If you can’t get to Bethlehem for Christmas day, don’t miss the midnight Mass celebrated at the wonderful Church of the Annunciation.

Christmas in Jerusalem

Christmas in Israel

Jerusalem fills up with pilgrims throughout the month of December, attracted by the Christmas spirit that fills the air and the opportunity to spend the holy season in the birthplace of Christianity. There are plenty of Christmas concerts and tours of Jerusalem’s holy sites throughout the month, culminating in a popular carol concert at the YMCA. A special mass is recited at Jerusalem’s churches, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, on Catholic and Protestant Christmas Day as well as on Orthodox Christmas and Armenian Christmas.

Christmas in Haifa

Christmas in Israel

For a slightly different Christmas experience, head up north to Haifa. This multicultural city is home to members of six faiths, and it celebrates the coexistence of different religions with a superb Holiday of the Holidays. Held over a couple of weeks in December, Haifa’s Holiday of the Holidays celebrates festive days for Judaism, Islam, and Christianity with ethnic music, authentic foods, antique fairs, holiday arts and crafts, and many other family-friendly events. With special lights and a huge, decorated Christmas tree, a Haifa Christmas is unlike any other Christmas celebration, and is not to be missed!

Christmas in Tel Aviv

If you’re looking for a traditional Christmas atmosphere, you’ll be in for a bit of a disappointment in most of Tel Aviv. However, you can head over to neighboring Jaffa for tinsel mass at the Immanuel church, the Jaffa Christmas parade, and the lighting of the massive Tel Aviv-Jaffa Christmas tree.

Whether you’re after spiritual celebrations, festive cheer, or Christmas shopping, you can find it all in Israel during the Christmas season. Merry Christmas!

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