Christmas is very important in the Palestinian territory of the West Bank, since it contains Bethlehem, the city where Jesus was born.
Bethlehem is about six miles (10 kilometers) south of Jerusalem. Bethlehem means “house of bread” and in history it was famous for the cultivation of wheat that became bread. Only 20% of Palestinians are Christians, but many Muslim Muslims are also proud that Jesus was born in a Palestinian territory!
On Christmas Eve there is a parade through the town. This is very important for the Christian part of the population. There are bagpipes in the parade, what you can not wait! Playing the bagpipes is a tradition that remains from when the British army occupied the area between 1920 and 1948. People also dress as Santa Claus and deliver sweets. The streets and the main square are decorated with lights.
Perhaps the most famous part of Christmas in Bethlehem is the service of the Church of the Mass of the Nativity. It takes place on Christmas Eve evening / night / midnight at the Church of the Nativity. The Church is built on the place where Jesus is traditionally believed to have been born. There is a small door in the church called the door of humility. The church was built by the Romans, some 500 years after the birth of Jesus. The most sacred part of the church is the Grotto of the Nativity, which is below the main altar. A silver star marks the place where Jesus must have been born.
In the Bible it had been prophesied that the Messiah or Jewish Savior (which Christians believe is Jesus) would be born in Bethlehem.
The Church is administered by three churches, the Roman Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church. The service of mass is directed by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Jerusalem. Many local politicians come to the service, Christians, Muslims and Jews. The church is full of people and a lot of incense, one of the gifts bought from the baby Jesus, burns. People also sing Christmas carols on Christmas Eve at Manger Square, a large paved courtyard in front of the Church.
The Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic Churches do not celebrate Christmas on December 25, but on January 6 and 7. They keep services in those days.
Christmas is celebrated more widely in the Palestinian territories than in Israel.
In Arabic Happy / Merry Christmas is Eid Milad Majid (عيد ميلاد مجيد) which means “Feast of glorious birth”. In Aramaic, the language that Jesus would have spoken, is ‘Eedookh Breekha’ which means ‘Blessed is your Christmas’.