The complete guide to celebrating Christmas 2015 in the Holy Land!

Nazareth Christmas

We know many of you are coming to celebrate Christmas in Israel, and many of you out there are still hoping to make it one day…so here’s our guide to what you can check out in terms of services and events for Christmas 2015!

NOTE: The events listed below are currently based on last year’s dates, as they typically stay the same. As the dates are still not official, we’ll make any updates here when they do become official.

Don’t miss our Christmas in Israel page for a collection of Christmas articles to keep you festive!

Of course, Christmas in Israel wouldn’t be Christmas without visiting Bethlehem, enjoying the magical alleyways of Jerusalem’s Old City, and taking part in the annual parade and Christmas Mass in Nazareth, but we’ve collected all the events and services here for you to make sure Christmas 2015 is one to remember…

The Star of Bethlehem - Jesus' birthplace

Note that during the Christmas celebrations the Ministry of Tourism will be providing free transport for those traveling between Jerusalem and Bethlehem (alternatively, check out our guide on getting from Jerusalem to Bethlehem). Buses will leave according to demand from Mar Elias Monastery to the Church of the Nativity, and back again, and will be operating non-stop from noon on 24 December through to noon on 25 December. Ministry of Tourism officials will also be welcoming visitors at Rachel’s Crossing with a goodie bag containing a set of festive coasters and chocolate – first come first served!

Christmas in Bethlehem 2015

Christmas in Bethlehem is a special experience. We’ve done it, and it’s a moving time, especially if you can get tickets for the Midnight Mass. You can apply for tickets here, up until December 17.

In running order of events happening in Bethlehem:

15 – 23 December: 16.30 Novena of Christmas in St Catherine.

24 December:
13.00 at the Tomb of Rachel: His Beatitude, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Fuad Twal, is welcomed by Latin Parish Priest of Bethlehem and representatives of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour.
13.30 at the Manger Square: Solemn Entry of His Beatitude into the Basilica of the Nativity and St. Catherine Church followed by Pontifical Vespers.
16.00 at St. Catherine: Daily Procession to the Nativity Grotto.
21.00 at St. Catherine: The Church opens (Tickets required).
23.15 at St. Catherine: SOLEMN “OFFICE OF READINGS”.

25 December:
00.00 at St. Catherine: PONTIFICAL EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION (Tickets required).
2.30 at the Manger Grotto: Low Masses till 5.15 (no tickets required), Interruption from 5.30 to 7.00 approximately.
7.30 at St. Catherine: PARISH MASS IN ARABIC.
10.00 at St. Catherine: PONTIFICAL CHRISTMAS MASS IN ARABIC AND LATIN.
14.00: Pilgrimage to the Greek and then to the Latin Shepherd’s Field.

26 December: Feast of St. Stephen
In the Manger Grotto: Holy Masses at 5.00 and 7.30.
At St. Catherine: Holy Masses at 6.30 (Italian), 7.00 (Arabic).
12.00: Daily procession to the Grotto of the Nativity.

27 December: Feast of St. John Evangelist
In the Manger Grotto: Holy Masses at 5.00 and 7.30.
At St. Catherine: Holy Masses at 6.30 (Italian) and 7.00 (Arabic).
12.00: Daily Procession to the Grotto.
16.45: Veneration of the Rock of Manger Grotto.

28 December: Feast of the Holy Innocents
In the Manger Grotto: Holy Masses at 5.00 and 7.30.
At St. Catherine: Holy Masses at 6.30 (Italian), 7.00 (Arabic).
10.00: SUNG MASS (Latin) IN THE GROTTO OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS.
12.00: Daily Procession to the Grotto.
14.00: Vespers in the Grotto of the Holy Innocents.

29 December:
In the Manger Grotto: Holy Masses at 5.00 and 7.30.
At St. Catherine: Holy Masses at 6.30 (Italian), 7.00 (Arabic).
12.00: Daily Procession to the Grotto.
15.00: Shepherd’s Field, Solemn Mass at in commemoration of the Shepherds.

30 December:
In the Manger Grotto: Holy Masses at 5.00 and at 8.30.
At St. Catherine: Holy Masses at 6.30 (Italian), 7.30; 9.00; 11.00; 16.30 (Arabic).

31 December: New Year’s Eve
In the Manger Grotto: Holy Masses at 5.00 and 7.30.
At St. Catherine: Holy Masses at 6.30 (Italian).
14.00 SOLEMN VESPERS WITH PROCESSION TO THE GROTTO.
16.00 Eucharistic Adoration followed by Holy Mass of Thanksgiving (Arabic) with TE DEUM.

1 January:
In the Manger Grotto: Holy Masses at 5.00 am and 7.30.
At St. Catherine: Holy Masses at 6.30 am (Italian), 7.30 am (Arabic).
SOLEMN MASS AT 10.30 (Arabic) followed by Procession to the Milk Grotto with the Icon of Virgin Mary.

5 January: Eve of Epiphany
In the Manger Grotto: Holy Masses at 5.00 and 7.30.
11.00 at the Tomb of Rachel: His Paternity the Custos of the Holy Land is welcomed by Latin Parish Priest and other representatives of Bethlehem.
11.30 at the Manger Square: Solemn Entry of his Paternity the Custos of the Holy Land into the Basilica of the Nativity and St. Catherine Church.
13.45 at St. Catherine: PONTIFICAL VESPERS AND PROCESSION TO THE GROTTO.
15.30 at St. Catherine: OFFICE OF READINGS AND PROCESSION TO THE GROTTO.

6 January: Epiphany
Midnight at the Grotto: Holy Masses from 00.00 till 9.00 with an interruption from 1.00 to 2.30 approximately.
7.30 at St. Catherine: Holy Mass.
10.00 at St. Catherine: PONTIFICAL MASS (Latin and Arabic).
15.30 at St. Catherine: SOLEMN VESPERS AND SOLEMN TRADITIONAL PROCESSION TO THE GROTTO: VENERATION OF THE INFANT JESUS WITH THE GIFTS OF GOLD, INCENSE AND MYRRH.

For the very latest information on services, check out www.cicts.org.

Christmas in Nazareth 2015

Nazareth - International Day of FaithNazareth is a great place to visit for those of you not able to make it to Bethlehem/Jerusalem. There is the now annual Christmas Market, a Christmas Parade, and Midnight Mass in the Church of the Annunciation, so plenty to enjoy!

The all-day Christmas Market will run from December 13-20. Here you can find some traditional Christmas goodies, gifts, and decorations. Read more here.

And don’t miss the annual traditional lighting of the Christmas tree, located by the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation (on 6 December).

On Christmas Eve (24 December) enjoy some real Christmas festivities, with the annual Christmas Parade starting at 15:30 (get there EARLY!), a great fireworks display at 17:30, and the Midnight Mass in the Basilica of the Annunciation, which will start at 19:00.

On Christmas Day, all Catholic Churches have Mass. At the Church of the Annunciation the first Mass takes place at 07:00. At 10:00, a festive Mass will take place.

Christmas in Jerusalem 2015

The Old City is a great place to feel the Christmas vibe, with plenty of churches and sacred sites to enjoy.

You should definitely check out the Christian Quarter, where you can join Midnight Mass and other Christmas services at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, or participate in the annual Christmas program of Christ Church, just inside Jaffa Gate, for some Christmas carol singing before the mass.

If you’re feeling particularly Christian, watch out for the Christmas Holiday Bazaar at the YMCA on December 18-19, and the Jerusalem Orphans Party on the 20th, plus the carol singing on Christmas Eve. For more details, click here.

Christmas in Tel Aviv 2015

Tel Aviv might be The City That Never Sleeps but celebrating Christmas it’s not particularly renowned for. OK, you might be able to get high and happy at one of Tel Aviv’s cool bars, but actually feeling the festive spirit is not easy. The one place we do know is open to some REAL Christmas vibes is the Immanuel Church in Jaffa – check out their website for official services.

Having said that, the first ever Jaffa Christmas Festival could also be worth a visit as it’s in collaboration with the Israel Food Channel! More details here.

Christmas in Haifa 2015

Without a doubt, the place to be this festive season in Haifa is the Holiday of Holidays festival. This unique festival celebrates THREE holidays: the Jewish holiday of Hanukka, Christmas, and the Moslem holiday of Eid-al-Adha. This year – it’s 22nd – it runs from the 8th to the 24th December. Read more here.

Happy Christmas to you and yours!

Christmas Mass in Bethlehem

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