The first thing a Westerner who visits the Holy Land during the holiday season should keep in mind is that most of the Christians living in Holy Land are Orthodox, and celebrate Christmas on January 7th, two weeks after the date common in the west.
What this means is that you can expect the season’s celebrations, events, and masses to last much longer in the Holy Land than in the West. Many of these occasions, given the historic pilgrimage sites in the Holy Land and the varied nature of the local Christian communities, are unique as well as deeply moving. If you want to navigate your way through the maze of festive events and sites, look no further than Kenes Tours.
Check out our list of must see highlights:
Join the traditional Christmas Parade from the city’s working-class neighborhood to the Orthodox Basilica of Annunciation. Continue through the open-air Christmas Market to the Catholic Basilica, to a magnificent concert. In addition to these world-famous sites, Nazareth boasts the tallest Christmas Tree (21 meters/ 69 feet!) in the Middle East.
On Christmas, the picturesque Maronite-Christian village of Maaliya in the Western Galilee holds carols, fireworks, and a mass march through the alleys of the hilly town. Additionally, the town hosts a multi-faith (Muslims, Druze, Christians and Jews) 1-6 mile race at the conclusion of the Jewish festival of Chanukah, just prior to the Christmas celebrations. Are you ready to do your part for peace on earth? Get you running shoes on!
- Gush Halav:
In addition to a moving concert in this village’s Maronite church, Gush Halav commemorates Christmas by recalling the wedding at Cana and the miracle of the transformation of water to wine. Visit this Galilee town’s 4-day wine festival and sample some of the local Arak. Just make sure you have a designated driver…
- Haifa and the ‘Chag HaChagim’ (Holiday of Holidays) festival:
The city of Haifa is famous for the coexistence of Jews, Muslims and Christians, and the holiday season brings out the best the city has to offer. This traditional festival includes dozens of cultural events open to the public to promote tolerance and mutual respect.
The house of Simon the Tanner in Old Jaffa is where Saint Peter decided to proselytize amongst Gentiles as well as Jews, as well as forsake the Jewish dietary rules and other ritual prohibitions which limited the reach of earlier proselytizing efforts.
Modern Jaffa, home to a sizable Armenian as well as Arab Christian community (and more recent foreign workers from majority-Christian countries), kicks off the festival season by lighting up its 15 meter (50 foot) Christmas tree, prominently situated in the central clock tower square. Nightly tours are available to take you through the various churches that serve the faithful of this special city- and, of course, to the site of the home of Simon the Tanner.
The Tower of David, a museum dedicated to the history of Jerusalem, organizes special Christmas tours through the Christian and Armenian Quarters of the city’s iconic Old City. The tour features liturgical choir music performed in the city’s various churches as well as a visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.