What I did:
Church of the Nativity-
The Church of the Nativity holds the location where Jesus is historically believed to have been born. The property is currently split between various Christian denominations. Many days there is a small or no wait, but on Christmas Eve there are massive crowds.
On Christmas Eve a parade went through Bethlehem. There were various youth bands in the parade and a large crowd watching the parade.
On Christmas Eve there is a Mass service held at the Church of the Nativity. Although I am not Catholic, I thought it would be interesting to experience the Mass. Tickets can be reserved for free in advance online, or can be scalped outside of the church on Christmas Eve. For those not inside the church (like myself), the Mass is shown on a monitor outside of the church.
Banksy is one of the most famous graffiti artists in the world. The artist has done work throughout the world. I personally have two reprints of some of his work, so it was interesting to see his original work in person.
Where I ate and drank:
Shepherd's Tower Restaurant-
Shepherd's Tower Restaurant offered good food and great views. The hilly Bethlehem terrain in the area and large windows offer picturesque views of the surrounding area. I was with a group of friends, so we ate "family style." They also offer hookah and a great place to relax with friends.
Afteem is very close to the Church of the Nativity. It was a great place to escape the winter chill. I had the Salep, a middle eastern drink made orchid tubers. It is a nice drink when the weather is cold.
Manger Square Area-
In the Manger Square area there are multiple restaurants and food stands. They serve things like shawarma and falafel, and can be very good low price food options.
Where I stayed and how I got around:
Abraham Hostel Jerusalem-
Abraham Hostel Jerusalem is an excellent hostel in nearby Jerusalem. They offer tours and transportation to Bethlehem and the West Bank.
I have also stayed in the Shepherd Hotel in Bethlehem on a previous trip I went on with a group of friends. We had many of our meals together at the hotel. The food there was especially good for hummus aficionados, as there was hummus served at every meal we ate there.
My favorite thing:
It was an interesting experience to spend Christmas Eve in Bethlehem, but my favorite thing was the people I met and got to spend time with.
My least favorite thing:
While spending Christmas Eve in Bethlehem was overall a good experience, the Christmas Mass was slightly disappointing. The weather was cold and the service was in Latin (a language I do not speak). Also, I wasn't extremely comfortable with the fact that people were scalping tickets to enter the church for the Mass.
For next time:
If I returned to Bethlehem I would like to get out of the tourist area, and go to some more local places.
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