Christmas in the Holy Land: Nazareth Events

Israel got a blast of winter last week, bringing with it the holiday spirit. Here's a preview of Christmas events in Nazareth.

The rare snow that blanketed parts of Israel last week brought with it the winter wonderland vibe that permeates Europe, the United States and other parts of the world ahead of Christmas and New Year's.

Some of that snow may have melted already, but that doesn’t mean the holiday spirit dissipated along with it; in fact, visitors to the Holy Land looking for Christmas activities won’t be disappointed. Mixed Jewish-Christian cities, such as Jerusalem, Haifa and Nazareth will be hosting a variety of tours, events and festivals over the coming days that are expected to attract hundreds of thousands of non-Jews and Jews alike.

Here's a look at some of the events and tours taking place in Nazareth:

Christmas market

This five-day event includes attractions for the whole family, food stalls with traditional holiday delicacies, artworks and even encounters with Santa Claus. The market is spread across three locations throughout the city: Spring Square, in the courtyard of the Greek Orthodox Church of Annunciation and in the alleys of the old city.

When: The festival has already started and runs through Saturday, December 21.

Cost: Free

Churches, hummus and Middle Eastern sweets

The Dynamic Tours company is offering an excursion around Nazareth's streets, including a visit to the Church of the Annunciation (also known as the Basilica of the Annunciation) and its lower levels, a visit to the bustling market, a walk through alleys along the pilgrim route, a visit to the Greek-Orthodox Church of the Annunciation and to the city's famous spring. The tour also includes a visit to a house renowned for its painted ceilings and to a halvah factory, and ends with tastings of hummus and sweets.

When: December 24

Cost: NIS 100; for information, call 04-9530041

Procession and mass

This day trip with Eretz Hatzvi Tours begins at a colorful street procession, where visitors can glimpse of hundreds of children from Nazareth’s schools and youth movements decked out in special costumes and playing music. The tour continues along Paul VI Street, where most of the stores are lit up for the holiday. The guide will talk about the birth of Jesus and early Christianity, then take the group to the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation. This denomination celebrates Christmas on January 7, but the church is already decorated for the occasion, with large spruce trees. After that the group will continue to a local candy store before attending Christmas Mass at the Catholic Church of Annunciation.

When: December 24, 3:30 P.M. until the end of the Midnight Mass

Cost: NIS 90; for information, call 052-2559584

The birth of Jesus and a Santa surprise

Ghada Boulos tour company is organizing this trip focusing on the history of Christmas, related by the guide at the Salesian Church of Jesus the Adolescent, with special attention paid to art. The tour will continue to the Sisters of Nazareth Convent, where a there will be a discussion of holiday customs practiced throughout December. Then tour participants will continue, with a Ghada Boulos guide, to the Church of the Annunciation and its cave, in which the birth of Jesus is represented. The significance of the cave and its symbols will also be explained. A discussion of the Christmas tree and its meanings will be held near the local spring. The tour also includes a small surprise from Santa Claus for every participant.

When: December 23-31, 10 A.M. – 4 P.M.

Cost: NIS 150; for more information, call 04-834-7368 or 054-5717774

Tomorrow: A round-up of Christmas-related events in Jerusalem

Eyal Toueg
Dror Artzi