Christmas in Israel: An experiential delight
Beyond the connection that Israel has to the birth of Christianity, Israel is one of the most beautiful places in the world to celebrate Christmas. The Israel Ministry of Tourism invests a lot of resources to make this an unforgettable holiday experience for every traveller visiting the country. Whether it’s strolling the alleys of the Old City of Jerusalem, the midnight mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, attending the traditional Nazareth event and exploring the charming Christmas markets – there’s no better way to start the new year.
Christmas in Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, is a great celebration. The annual Christmas market offers souvenirs, sweets, gifts and traditional decorations in a breathtaking atmosphere. Find your way to Spring Square and you will find the biggest and tallest Christmas tree in Israel. On December 25 there is a colourful parade and mass at the Gospel Church at midnight. Foodies will enjoy delicious Arabian food ranging from hummus and falafel to knafeh for dessert. Shopping enthusiasts should visit the BIG Mall at the entrance to Nazareth for their shopping thrill where prices are lower than usual and there are many things worth buying.
The Christmas atmosphere is truly felt in Jerusalem, in part because of the cold weather. However, many churches in the city are beautifully decorated embodying the Christmas spirit. Those visiting the Christian Quarter in Jerusalem’s Old City can attend midnight mass and holiday events that are held at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The annual Christ Church ceremony, which is located inside the Jaffa Gate, is also a great option especially for those who enjoy carolling and can sing along with the Christmas choir. The Christmas market itself takes place in the Old City where you will find a variety of souvenirs to take home with you. Every year Santa’s House in the Old City offers an authentic experience of Jerusalem-style Christmas. The house is decorated in the spirit of the holiday wherein children can meet with Santa and enjoy a visit to the Cookie Kitchen, a Toy Workshop and Santa’s mailing station.
Every year there is a “Holiday of the Holidays” festival in the city promoting mutual respect and tolerance of the cultural and religious values of the three religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The festival is marked by three different holidays: Christmas for Christians, Hanukkah for Jews and Eid al-Adha for Muslims. Among other things, there are guided tours, exhibitions, street parties and a variety of outdoor events, fairs, performances and concerts. If you prefer celebrating in a peaceful and unique atmosphere, you can head to the German Colony, overlooking the spectacular gardens of the Baha’i religion, where they celebrate the holiday with traditional events and restaurants.
The major cities in Israel are not the only ones to celebrate Christmas. An authentic cultural experience is also guaranteed in Christian communities and villages in the Western Galilee. Every year there is a Christmas festival in Mi’ilya, which includes chefs’ culinary workshops, arts and crafts workshops, concerts and public singing, culinary tours, music shows, nature and art tours, jeep tours, and more. In the neighbouring villages, there is also a Galilee Christmas run, passing through Christmas trees in the village of Yasif, Tarshiha and Beit Jann.
In the busiest city in Israel, Christmas is more about parties and entertainment. Many of Tel Aviv’s bars, restaurants and clubs offer menus with traditional holiday dishes while tour guides offer city tours in the holiday spirit. Those who want to experience the holiday in a holy atmosphere, are invited to Immanuel Church in Jaffa. Not far away, in the clock square, you will find a huge Christmas tree, lit by holiday colours.