This was my first Christmas in Jerusalem and I was all alone. My only companion to say was my travelogue. Perhaps, my travelogue was witness of my journey to the holy land. Celebrating Christmas in Jerusalem is one-of-a-kind experiences.
Different from the fanatics of the bustling city, recalling my exquisite, emotional and spiritual experience, I got to the airport at 8am for my 11:30am flight to Tel Aviv. I arrived at Tel Aviv airport around 7pm on December 22, 2012 and then took a taxi to Jerusalem.
On December 23, 2012, after breakfast drove up the Mount of Olives for a view of the Old City of Jerusalem. I walked down Jaffa Street and entered the Old City through New Gate. I just walked around without a plan, looking at the buildings and following the music that was playing all over the city.
Walking down the street, I came across two processions, one where they were singing Christmas carols and the second was of a young guy walking with a wooden cross and doing all the stations of the cross. The stations is the whole route Jesus walked on the way to his crucifixion.
I made a stop at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. As I entered, I was greeted by the stone of Unction where the anointing and wrapping of Christ’s body after death took place.
People were kneeling down and praying around the stone, a priest knelt down and poured some red oil on to the stone rubbing it in and praying while I was standing there. People actually came and packed candles and icons on to the stone and then removing it as it is now blessed!
Golgotha, the spot where the crucifix is believed to have stood, was inside the church. Downstairs is a place where they believed Jesus was buried had long queue to enter. The church has beautiful lanterns hanging all over!! I stopped off at Damascus Gate to admire its magnificence.
On December 24, 2012, the Christmas Eve, I enjoyed a late breakfast to be rested for midnight mass in Bethlehem. In the afternoon, I drove to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity and Shepherds’ Fields. Had dinner in Bethlehem – “Jerusalem Dinner” (fish, beef roast, bread in round loaves, butter, honey, green & black olives, and dates – essentially those kinds of food they might have eaten back then). After dinner, I was on site for the midnight mass.
Christian pilgrims and tourists from around the world had converged on Bethlehem for Christmas. Celebrations culminated in Midnight Mass at the 1,700 year old Church of the Nativity, built on the spot where it is believed Jesus was born. Midnight mass in Bethlehem celebrated to mark the birth of the Savior of the World is a moving and beautiful spectacle. Though it is televised all across the world, being there is an amazing feeling.
Midnight, Merry Christmas! Joyous crowds and tourists brimming with joy. Celebrations all over! I was back to Jerusalem overnight.
On December 25, 2012, after breakfast, I entered the Old City of Jerusalem. Visited the Church of St. Anne and the Pools of Bethesda. Walked along the Stations of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa following. Viewed the Temple Mount. Visited Mount Zion, the Hall of the Last Supper and Dormition Abbey.
Overnight, I was back to Jerusalem. Getting into my hotel room, I put down my wonderful experience in my travelogue. This blog presents my journey which touches upon my faith.