Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Oranges.

Over thirty years ago I went to Jerusalem during late November and at this time of year it is always the place I think of.  Attached to this is memory is the smell and taste of ripe bright oranges and clementines and their beautiful green leaves.  I always buy Orange and clementines at this time of the year with leaves on as a reminder of my visit to Jesus’s birth place.

What did strike me was how closely all the different religious groups live together. At the time the most popular sales for us tourists were nativity sets (I still have mine and put it out every 13th December to 6th January) made of olive wood from the Mount of Olives.

Bethlehem is the town where Jesus Christ is said to have been born. I visited the place which is marked as his birth place and remember my surprise at how small the entrance to the church was.

Find out more about Bethlehem below.

Here, Christmas Day is observed not  on a particular day. Bethlehem consists of people of different Christian  denominations – Catholics, Protestants, Greek Orthodoxes, Ethiopians, Armenians and more. While Roman Catholics and Protestants celebrate Christmas Day on  December 25, Greek, Syrian and other Orthodox Christians observe it on 6th January. For Armenian  Christians, Christmas Day is on January 18. Hence, Bethlehem witnesses longer Christmas celebrations than many other  places.

In Bethlehem, Roman Catholic services begin on December 24 and take place in  St. Catherine’s Church , a Catholic church adjacent to the Orthodox Basilica of  the Nativity. Protestants hold their services in a different way. While some of  them may attend special Christmas services in their local churches, others may  arrange excursions for special services in the Shepherd’s Fields or the Church  of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Some of the popular Jerusalem chuches such as The  Anglican Cathedral of St. George, the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and the  YMCA organize travel to Bethlehem for  Christmas Eve celebrations. Orthodox Christians(Greek Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox,  Coptic Orthodox, Romanian Orthodox and others) celebrate the birth of Jesus by taking out numerous religious  processions and holding special services mainly at the Basilica of the Nativity.  Most Armenian Christmas services are also held in the Basilica, albeit a little  later, on January 18. The Christmas processions usually pass through Manger Square, believed to be situated on the traditional site of Jesus’ birth.

The general Christmas traditions in Bethlehem are similar  to the Europeans and North American customs observed during the festival. From a few  days before 25th December, the town is decorated with flags and other items of adornment. Streets  are strung with Christmas lights. A Christmas market comes up and Christmas plays  are performed. A cross is painted on the doors of every Christian home and Nativity scenes are displayed in every  household.

On Christmas Eve, annual Christmas processions are taken out. Residents of  the town as well as tourists crowd the doorways and the roof of the Basilica to  get a view of the parade. Galloping horsemen and police mounted on Arabian  horses lead the procession. The procession is led by galloping horsemen and  police mounted over Arabian horses; followed by a man riding over a black steed  and carrying a cross. After him comes the churchmen and government officials.  The procession quitely enters the doors and puts an ancient effigy of the Holy  Child in the Church. The visitors are then taken through deep winding stairs  leading to a grotto where a silver star marks the site of the birth of  Jesus.

With thanks to