Bethlehem Celebrates Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony

On December 3, Bethlehem residents and dignitaries experienced holiday joy and the spirit of Christmas at an evening celebration. The local community, government representatives and pilgrims gathered for the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Manger Square outside
the Church of the Nativity. Governing members in attendance included the Governor of Bethlehem, Kamal Ahmed Hassan Amid, Minister of Health, Mai al-Kaila, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, Rula Maayah and the Deputy Mayor of Bethlehem, Hanna Hanania. The Latin
Catholic Church was represented by the Patriarchal Vicar for Jerusalem and Palestine, William Shomali, and the Vicar of the Holy Land, Fr. Ibrahim Faltas, along with hundreds of pilgrims.

The celebration showcased vibrant music, special performances and Christmas carols. Following the festivities and the blessing of the Christmas tree, the crowd excitedly began the tree lighting countdown. As the countdown ended, the giant tree lit up in glimmering lights as the crowds cheered for joy.

The annual tree lighting kicks off the Christmas season in the birthplace of our Savior. In the spirit of Christmas and gift giving, many merchants offer unique merchandise to visitors and pilgrims through the month of December. With the Holy Land re-opened to tourism, stores
anticipate a boost in sales compared to the last few years of economic downturn from the pandemic.

The tree lighting ceremony has become a warm and welcomed tradition for families and visitors from around the world. The Bethlehem community is proud of the role this event plays in the rich history of their city.


Fr. Peter F. Vasko, OFM, President of Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land shares a special
Christmas greeting from the Holy Land.

“Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” Luke 2:14

This Christmas season, I pray that you keep your sights joyfully fixed upon the Lord and may He give you the grace to walk this pilgrimage journey of life as a Christian. Let us all give thanks for the greatest gift of all — the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ.

With the pandemic mostly behind us, the Holy Land has re-opened to tourism again, alleviating some of the economic suffering of Christians. During the pandemic, there were virtually no pilgrims for the first time in 1,600 years. But now, there is hope. Will you join me this Christmas in remembering the sacrifices these Living Stones endure for their faith? Together we can bring light to the world this Christmas season. A meaningful gift is life-giving for many Christians and can help our brothers and sisters remain in the birthplace of our Lord and Savior.

Wishing you and your loved ones a joyful Advent and a Merry Christmas. God bless you.

FFHL wishes you a wonderful holiday season and a Merry Christmas!

Please consider a gift this holiday season through our Christmas appeal.