With dozens of churches scattered throughout the Christian Quarter of the Old City, near the Old City and in the neighborhood of Ein Karem, and being only six kilometers from Bethlehem, Jerusalem is a very special place to be to celebrate the holiday of Christmas.
Christmas Mass and Religious Ceremonies
Here are some of the churches in Jerusalem where you are welcome to join in Midnight Mass and other Christmas services:
In and around the Old City of Jerusalem
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Old City, Tel. +972-2-628-4202
More about this church
Christ Church, located immediately inside Jaffa Gate in the Old City, has an annual program on Christmas. Please check with them beforehand but here is a general overview of their ceremonies and events:
Christmas Eve Open House with worship in the church
Nine Lessons and Carols & Communion
Christmas Day Service
Christmas Lunch (there is an entrance fee)
All services and programs are in English.
Those looking to avoid the frenetic crowds may enjoy exploring other Christian holy sites such as Mary’s Dormition Church on Mount Zion, the Tomb of the Virgin on the Mount of Olives and the Garden Tomb, popular with Protestants.
In Ein Karem, Jerusalem
Church of St. John the Baptist in Ein Karem
It is a great Christmas tradition in Israel to be near the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve. Tradition says that the church marks the exact spot where Mary gave birth to Jesus.
International visitors to Bethlehem, a city just six miles south of Jerusalem, get to experience the annual Midnight Mass in the Church of the Nativity (tickets only) and at 1:00am, the ceremony welcoming the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem to Bethlehem.
Also in Bethlehem is the Armenian Church, Basilica of the Nativity and Manger Square.
Tours, concerts, carols and more
Here is a taste of the events that took place on Christmas 2013. Many of these events are annual; be in touch with the venues in order to get more information.
Baroque Pearls – concert in St Andrew’s Scotish Memorial Church
Four musicians and an actress performed a beautiful program of Bach, Haendel and Vivaldi.
Abraham Hostel’s Christmas tour
- 2:00pm – Leave Jerusalem (Abraham Hostel)
- 2:15pm - Pick-up at Jaffa Gate
- 2:30pm - Shepherds’ Field
- 3:00pm - Arrive in Bethlehem
- 8:00pm - Dinner
- 12:00am – Midnight Mass
- 1:00am – Leave Bethlehem
Walk along the the Via Dolorosa
Christmas at the YMCA
Christmas Eve concert
A performance of Christmas carols
Bell ringing concert from the YMCA tower by Gabi Shefler
Program included: Schubert, Mozart, Debussy and seasonal finale with the traditional sing-along of carols with the audience
Decorate the Christmas tree at the YMCA
A festive evening in the YMCA lobby decorating the Christmas tree, singing carols and enjoying holiday treats.
Children’s Christmas program at the YMCA
Over 600 Children from local convents and orphanages gather in the YMCA Auditorium to experience the fun and excitement of the Christmas season.
(Limited number of tickets available for the public)
Christmas Eve dinner at the American Colony Hotel
A five-course meal at the American Colony Hotel‘s Arabesque restaurant. The menu included:
- Prawns and avocado salad
- Goose liver terrine on shallots and fig tart, mango chutney
- Red lentil, butter squash coconut and coriander soup
- Slow cooked whole duck glazed with orange, star anise and beer sauce
- A seasonal vegetable bouquet
- Burgul with figs and pine nuts
- Manafura Delight
They also offer a Christmas lunch and New Years Eve dinner.
Hallelujah – Christmas concert in Christ Church in the Old City
Two days after Christmas
Hallelujah Concert with the “Alei Gefen” choir concluding with a tour through the Old City focusing on Christianity in Jerusalem.
The classical music was a tribute to “A Hope for Peace and Friendship.”
And if you’re already coming…
Consider taking a trip north to Nazareth, home to Israel’s largest Christian population. Nazareth was the childhood home of Jesus, where you can visit the Church of the Annunciation and Church of St. Joseph.
And once up north, just 10 kilometers away is the former Templar colony Bethlehem of Galilee, a quaint town with lovely stores, stunning views and many examples of original Templar architecture from the turn of the 20th century.
Santa Claus photos by: The Ministry of Tourism and Dafna Tal