Christmas in Israel offers pilgrims and visitors a very special and unique festive and spiritual experience, with the opportunity to spend Christmas in the ancient city of Jerusalem, in Nazareth and visit the many Christian sites.

Christmas festivities in Israel


Copyright: Israel Ministry of Tourism

(Israel Ministry of Tourism)

Christmas in Israel offers pilgrims and visitors a very special and unique festive and spiritual experience, with the opportunity to spend Christmas in the ancient city of Jerusalem, to participate in Christmas festivities and Mass in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth and visit the many Christian sites in the Galilee as well as  participate in the Holiday of Holidays Festival in Haifa.

Christmas in Nazareth:

The official lighting of the Christmas tree takes place on Paulo VI Street will take place on December 6, with live music offered by a variety of different artists. The Christmas tree lighting at Mary’s Well will take place on December 13.

From December 13-20, the Municipality of Nazareth will holding a festive Christmas market – a street fair with food and arts and crafts. On December 19, a festive Hanukah and Christmas concert will be performed by the Galilee Orchestra, the Upper Galilee Choir and singer Keren Hadar, directed by Yishai Shtekler.

The traditional parade of thousands of youth from youth movements, together with the leaders of the Christian communities, through the main street of Nazareth will take place on December 24, ending at the plaza in front of the Basilica of the Annunciation and followed by a festive firework display.

Christmas Mass will be performed in the Basilica of the Annunciation at 19:00. On Christmas day, all Catholic churches will celebrate mass.

Christmas in Jerusalem:

On Christmas Eve, thousands of Christians living in Jerusalem and many guests who come to Jerusalem for the holiday arrive at the various churches, to celebrate the most important holiday in the Christian calendar. Below are the some details of the various Christmas Mass prayers and ceremonies that are scheduled to be held on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day in Jerusalem, further details of which are available in a guide, produced by the Jerusalem Development Authority for visitors to the city.

Christmas services will be held in churches throughout Jerusalem, including the Church of the Nativity, the Church of St. Catherine, and St. Stephen’s Church.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre – perhaps the most important church in the Christian world. Located in the heart of the Christian Quarter, the Church marks the place where the last events in Jesus’ life took place, revered by many Christians as the place where Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and resurrected.

Church of Our Lady of the Spasm – the Armenian Catholic Church, 4th station along the Via Dolorosa, is dedicated to the moment Mary, mother of Jesus Christ, saw her son in agony on his way to the crucifixion The church was built in 1881 on the remains of a church from 4-5 century AD. Mass will be held at 10:00 on Christmas Day.

Lutheran Church of the Redeemer – named after Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism in the 16th century, the church was built in 1897 on the ruins of the Church of Santa Maria and, was inaugurated by Kaiser Wilhelm II in the Christian Quarter. Mass begins at 23:00 on Christmas Eve.

Dormition Abbey – The Church on Mount Zion is dedicated to the tradition that on this spot Mary, Jesus’ mother, fell into an eternal sleep. The Church belongs to the Benedictine Order and is built on the remains of the Byzantine basilica Hagia Sion. Mount Zion is also the place where the Last Supper took place and is the location of the tomb of King David. A choral Mass begins at 20:00 on Christmas Eve, while an impressive Christmas pageant starts at midnight.

Church of Saint Salvador – The Church and Monastery were built in 1885 by the Catholic Franciscan Order of Saint Francis of Assisi. The Franciscan Monks’ role is to be "guardians of the Holy Land" – Custodia Terrae Sanctae. Mass begins at 19:00 on Christmas Eve, and 08:30 on Christmas morning.

Convent of Notre Dame de Jerusalem – Our Lady of Jerusalem is the French Catholic compound in Jerusalem. Built in 1889 and sponsored by the Comte Marie Paul Amedee de Piellat, the complex includes the Notre Dame hostel and the Catholic administrative center. This is one of the most impressive compounds in Jerusalem from the 19th century, and was built in the Baroque style, with two tall towers standing, and between them a statue of the Madonna and an infant Christ in her arms. Mass begins on Christmas Eve at 22:00.

Church of St. John the Baptist – St. John’s Ein Kerem, is a Catholic Church dedicated to John the Baptist, who, according to tradition, was born there. The church was first built by Helena, mother of the Emperor Constantine in the 4th century AD. The Church was destroyed in 614 and was re-built by the Crusaders. During the 19th century the Church underwent renovation and was cared for by the Spanish monarchy. Mass begins at midnight on Christmas Eve.

The YMCA will host a series of events:

On December 6, children of Jerusalem are invited to decorate the Christmas tree at the YMCA, sing carols, and ask Santa for wishes. The YMCA will also hold a Christman holiday bazaar on December 18-19, with stalls full of original Christmas goods and crafts, music from the tower bells, Santa Claus actors granting children’s wishes, snow machines, workshops for children, and more.

For over 60 years, the YMCA has provided 600 of Jerusalem’s neediest youngsters a day of fun and entertainment that includes receiving  gift packages to take home. Its Christmas party for Jerusalem’s orphans will take place on December 20.

The annual Christmas carols concert at the YMCA, with Professor Gabi Scheffler – Bells (CARILLON), Woodwind Quintet, the “Inbalim” Ensemble, Sounds of Gilo choir, the Jerusalem International YMCA youth choir and the Israeli Opera soloists will take place on December 24 at 20:00.

Christmas in Tel Aviv-Jaffa:

From November until January the old Jaffa port will host its first ever Christmas market. A spectacular Christmas tree, beautiful lights and snow cannons are only a few of the holiday traditions that will set the mood for this winter festival. The market will host dozens of stalls packed with fresh local produce such as olive oil and fruits and vegetables straight from the farms, unique delicacies from various cooks and chefs and winter holiday goods for all faiths.

Christmas in Haifa:

Haifa celebrates a unique and special event, the "Holiday of Holidays" festival that is taking place from December 8-24, 2015.  This holiday, in its for the 22nd year, symbolizes the values of coexistence, living together in peace and harmony, and mutual respect of all six religions in the city. The holiday events on consecutive weekends take place in the Arab Wadi Nisnas neighborhood and extend to the German Colony at the foot of the Baha’i’ Gardens.

Among the featured events: an antique fair, an arts and crafts fair, special authentic foodstuffs prepared by residents of Wadi Nisnas and music by artists of all ethnicities, and more. On December 17 there will be a special international Peace Concert at Beit HaGefen performed by Italian musical band BandAdriatica.

Christmas in Bethlehem (Palestinian Authority):

During the Christmas holidays, the Ministry of Tourism will offer free transportation, helping pilgrims travelling between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Buses will leave according to demand from the Carta car park at Mamilla Boulevard, via the Mar Elias Monastery to the Church of the Nativity, and back again and will operate every half-hour from 15:00 on 24 December through to 03:00 on 25 December. Representatives from the Ministry of Tourism will welcome tourists and pilgrims at Rachel’s Crossing with sweets in the spirit of the holiday.

Visitors wishing to participate in Christmas mass in Bethlehem can order tickets on-line.