During December, apart from Christmas celebrations,many other feasts are celebrated in a special way in the land of Jesus.
The month begins with the Novena to the Immaculate Conception. In St. Saviour’s Church, the parish of Jerusalem, a statue of our Lady is placed in front of the altar and every evening during the nine days, the Franciscans sing the vespers in her honor until the 8th of December, when a solemn Mass is said.
Also, in both Jerusalem and Bethlehem, there is a tradition of lighting the Christmas tree. In Bethlehem, the event took place next to the Church of the Nativity, where there was also a live concert and food. In Jerusalem, the tree lighting took place in New Gate (one of the seven gates of the walled Old City of Jerusalem). There, a band of the Scouts played Christmas carols and Santa Claus walked through the place to take pictures with bystanders.
December 12th, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, was celebrated with a solemn Mass at St. Saviour’s Church where, after the liturgy, people enjoyed Mexican food.
Of course, Christmas isn’t the only religious holiday celebrated in the Holy Land. Hannukah happens around the same time, which is why it’s easy to see the street of Jerusalem filled with lit hanukkiyot. To read more about what it’s about, click here.
Still, the event that attracts the most people from all over the country is, without a doubt, the vigil Mass in the Church of the Nativity of Bethlehem on December 24. It begins with the vespers, followed by a processions toward the Nativity Grotto until the Holy Mass at midnight, celebrated by the Apostolic Administrator, Msgr. Pizzaballa. This Christmas Mass, followed by adoration of the Child in the Manger Grotto, is one of the most special experiences a pilgrim can have in the Holy Land.
Christmas Day is celebrated with a Mass in the Church of St. Catherine (next to the Basilica of the Nativity) and afterwards, there is a procession to the Shepherds’ Field, where local tradition has it that the angels announced Jesus’s birth to shepherds, tending their flock by night.