Christmas in Bethlehem
As one would expect from the purported place of Jesus Christ's birth, Christmas in Bethlehem is a major celebration, attracting devout pilgrims from across the globe and curious tourists who happen to be in the area alike. Not only are there a series of processions and services held by a variety of Christian denominations (including Catholic, Protestant, Greek Orthodox, Armenian, Ethiopian and more), but the streets of Bethlehem are festooned with Christmas lights and decorations, and a Christmas market is set up, and nativity plays take place all around the city. Christmas celebrations last for three weeks in Bethlehem - as different sects celebrate the occasion on different days - but the highlight of the festive period in Bethlehem is still Christmas Eve, when a procession of Arabian horses wends through Manger Square, a plaza outside the Basilica of the Nativity (a building which is said to be built on the actual site of Jesus' birth). Behind the first wave of horseman comes one rider on a coal-black steed carrying a cross, followed by government officials and clergymen. These dignitaries place an effigy of the holy child inside the church, before visitors are led down a deep and winding stairwell to discover a silver star that marks the birthplace of Jesus Christ.
Date: 24 December 2012 to 18 January 2013