It's still Advent

Everyone in Bethlehem and surrounding towns and villages knows when the morning of December 24 rolls around. The noise of drums from dozens of Scouts’ groups on parade signal a joyful anticipation of Christmas.

Going out to meet Him

The Apostolic Administrator for the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, processes to Bethlehem, stopping at the Greek Orthodox Monastery of Mar Elias, where he meets the pastor and the mayor of Beit Jala. According to the Custody of the Holy Land, Archbishop Pizzaballa exchanges Christmas wishes with the pastor of the Church of St. Catherine in Bethlehem and the mayor of Beit Sahour.
At 1:30 p.m., Archbishop Pizzaballa solemnly enters Bethlehem, marking the beginning of the Christmas season in the Holy Land. Accompanied by over 30 groups of Catholic scouts, the Archbishop is welcomed in the area in front of the Basilica by the Franciscan friars of St. Catherine’s Monastery and by religious and civil representatives, including the mayor of Bethlehem. In front of the Church of the Nativity, Fr. Artemio Vitores, guardian of the Franciscan fraternity of Bethlehem, together with representatives of the Greek Orthodox and Armenian communities, await Pizzaballa, according to the Custody of the Holy Land.

Humble pilgrims

After the greeting by the parish priest, the celebration of First Vespers takes place at 4 p.m. in the Church of St. Catherine, presided over by the Apostolic Administrator of the Latin Patriarchate, Archbishop Pizzaballa.

Joyful expectation

After First Vespers, the Franciscan friars of the Custody of the Holy Land lead a procession to the Grotto of the Nativity and to the Grotto of St. Joseph.

Celebrating the Prince of Peace

Before Midnight Mass, the Franciscan friars of the Custody of the Holy Land, members of the Latin Patriarchate with the Apostolic Administrator and the Palestinian civil authorities gather for Christmas Eve dinner.

All roads lead to Bethlehem

As celebrations continue inside, the square in front of the Basilica of the Nativity fills with local faithful and pilgrims from all over the world.


Advent ends with the Office of Readings of the Solemnity of Christmas.

International gathering

Over 1,400 faithful attend the celebration inside the basilica. Br. Tomasz Dubiel, head of the Christian Information Center, has said that most of the participants come from the United States, Italy and France. "Every year we allocate a certain percentage of tickets per country of origin,”  he said.

Highlight of the celebration

At midnight, Mass is celebrated at the Church of St. Catherine. The liturgy is attended by the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, as well as representatives of the Palestinian Authority and ambassadors from various countries around the world.

Sleep in heavenly peace

After Mass, a prayerful procession of religious and faithful makes its way to the Grotto of the Nativity where the Child Jesus is placed.