Christmas Dinner & Memories of Bethlehem
Updated: Jun 19
Despite the never-ending shopping trips and the constant chores mom creates for all, (mom treats the day as if it is Jesus being born at our home) I mean whsol cleans under and over every nook and cranny despite all that Christmas preparation is my favorite.
Growing up, Christmas day was often done at my grandparent’s house. The table was set in the center of the house with an abundance of chairs to make room for all. The menu was traditional Palestinian food. Usually, stuffed chicken or lamb, grape leaves, salads, spice scented rice jeweled with nuts and minced meat, eid soup, and so much more. Amto Aida would always give us chocolate santas imported from Germany, socks, and pjs.
My earlier recollections of Christmas go back to my father’s mysterious closet (the one that held all of our Christmas goodies that we were not allowed to open until Christmas) I also vividly remember spending the whole day decking the house with golden string, lights and ornaments, and most importantly, the olive wood manjor that my dad got in Bethlehem. Falling asleep to the flickering lights from the Christmas tree and the plastic Santa who was carefully watching was one of my favorite memories. As young kids, Santa’s rosy cheeks and jolly spirit became alive in our dreams.
My sister Reem and I always had matching outfits for the holidays. My mom saved this red dress and all my 3 girls wore it once for Christmas.
My 2 brothers and sister Reem. My baby sister Zaina wasnt born at the time infront of our Christmas tree.
As you can imagine, Christmas in Bethlehem, was a major event. The streets are all strung with Christmas lights, and there are Christmas markets, plays, and choirs from all over the world coming to perform at the Manger Square. Other events special to Bethlehem consisted of multiple services and processions led by the many different Christian denominations.
My family and I often went to the church tree lighting.The church bells rang loud and proud so all people would know of the major events taking place. As the years went by, the light of the tree in Bethlehem dimmed and the magic slowly disappeared. Palestine was occupied, and the celebrations and the decorations slowly disappeared during the Intifada. Even though there were years where we couldn’t see the tree lighting of the Christmas because there simply was no tree, it stood tall and strong in the memory of all who believe of hope, peace and tree lighting once again.
Today I long for the tree lighting in Bethlehem, for the celebrations at Manger Square, for my home, for my grandmothers food and moms cookies, for chocolate Santa from amto and for Christmas in Palestine.
Pictures of the Church of the Nativity in Bethelehm that I took on my last trip.
Christmas Dinner Menu:
Eid soup with mastic and meatballs https://www.almondandfig.com/single-post/2019/01/30/Homemade-Chicken-Stock
Dawali or stuffed tomatoes
Baba ghanouj it’s moms must have
Sfeeha Meat Pies
My moms Christmas spice cookies