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Thousands travelling to Israel for Christmas

Tens of thousands of tourists from around the world will be arriving in Israel in the coming weeks to celebrate Christmas in the land where Christmas began, says Ami Allon, Consul for Tourism, Israel Government Tourist Office – Canada. Churches throughout Israel will hold services celebrating Christmas on Dec. 24 and 25. Orthodox churches will celebrate Christmas on Jan. 6 and 7, 2014. Major Christmas events will take place in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Galilee city of Nazareth, Jesus’s hometown.

For Christians vacationing in Jerusalem, Israel’s Ministry of Tourism is offering free 24-hour shuttle service to nearby Bethlehem. Buses will leave according to demand from Jerusalem’s Mar Elias Monastery (in the south of the Israeli capital) to Bethlehem’s Manger Square. The ancient Basilica of the Nativity and the Franciscan Church of the Nativity mark the traditional site of the birth of Jesus. Buses will operate non-stop in both directions from noon Dec. 24 through noon on Dec. 25. Representatives of the Israel Ministry of Tourism will welcome tourists and pilgrims at Rachel’s Crossing with a gift bag containing gifts and chocolate in the spirit of the holiday.

The annual Christmas market takes place in Nazareth through Dec. 15. Located near Mary’s Well, the traditional Christmas market sells Christmas decorations and gifts. The annual lighting of the Nazareth Christmas Tree took place yesterday (Dec. 11) adjacent to the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation. At 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 24, a traditional Christmas parade will take place through the main streets of Nazareth with thousands of participants including members of youth movements and leaders of a variety of Christian denominations. The parade ends at the plaza in front of the Basilica of the Annunciation. At 5:30 p.m., fireworks (sponsored by the Israel Ministry of Tourism) mark the opening of the festive Christmas celebrations. And, at 7 p.m., there’s Christmas Mass in the Basilica of the Annunciation.

On Dec. 25, all Catholic churches celebrate Mass, with the first at the Basilica of the Annunciation at 7 a.m. At 10 a.m. a festive Mass will take place. (http://www.goisrael.ca)

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