Our church always has an annual Christmas dinner. Sometimes its the usual sit-down dinner with some light entertainment. One year it was a breakfast at the North Pole. We have even had Christmas in Nauvoo. But this year, we went all the way back in time to Bethlehem. We have done this before and its always a lot of fun.
Upon arrival, each person must stop and sign the census, pay their taxes (canned food for the needy) and pick up a bag of coins to purchase things in the marketplace. Everyone is encouraged to come dressed in biblical attire. If you don't have a costume, you can visit the tailor shop upon entering the city and get outfitted for the festivities. Townspeople enjoy walking around the open market of Bethlehem for good food, music, and the smell of spices in the air. The kids have fun making beeswax candles, shaping things from clay, and making wooden mallets in the carpenter's shop. Each family can pick out something from the gift shop. If you're tired, and you want to spend one of your gold coins, you can sit in the inn to eat your food.
A garland of bagels helps to define the bakery shop filled with many delightful home-baked goodies.
Next to the bakery was a shop offering lentil soup and smoked salmon. Further down was the Pita Inn offering delicious pita pockets filled with chicken salad and cucumber slices.
Jasper, the donkey, was watching over the photo area. Just a side note...Jasper is a well traveled donkey. He has been south of the border, to Nauvoo, Bethlehem, and other various locations (depending on what church activity we're having!)
The fruit stand offered a variety of fresh fruit.
The gift shop was filled with ornaments depicting the nativity, small clay figurines of the nativity (some from red clay, others from fimo), simmering spice potpourri, and other small items.
Other shops were the dairy, serving cheese cubes and olives, and the "winery" serving grape juice.
The pottery shop allowed the kids to sculpt something from self-hardening clay.
The shop also had some pottery on display.
The other two shops were the candle shop, where beeswax candles could be made, and the popular carpenter's shop where a lot of enthusiastic pounding was taking place!
After everyone had enjoyed the market place, townspeople made there way into the chapel for a reenactment of the Christmas story and the singing of hymns, ending the evening with our thoughts toward the real reason that we celebrate Christmas. I am thankful for the birth our Savior and for the life that he led so that we might have a perfect example to follow. May we all strive to be more kind, more patient, more loving, more forgiving, more like Him!
Below is a beautiful, short video about the most important gift ever given.
This is a fun activity, but needs a lot of advance preparation for it to be a success. You can find several ideas for this if you search the web. A couple of things we did the first time was to get several castoff sheets from a local hotel. I cut a cardboard stencil and used spray paint to make the stone walls surrounding the city. I also dyed several sheets brown, blue, burgandy, and green. These have come in very handy for covering all the tables. The upright supports for all the awnings are 2x2's that are attached to the table legs with duct tape...lots of duct tape! All of the baskets, pottery, fringed fabric, table runners, greenery, etc. were purchased over time from thrift stores (a fun assignment to have, I might add!) We're lucky enough to have two large plywood boxes that fit on the roll-around carts under the stage for storage...and they are filled to the brim! It takes several hours to build the city of Bethlehem, but with enough workers, only about 45 minutes to take it all down...yay!
I like to link to these great parties!