Bethlehem is the town where Jesus Christ is said to have been born. Naturally, Christmas here is a major event and the festival is celebrated in a grand manner.
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 a 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.