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Expat Exchange - Best Places to Visit in Israel for Christmas Cheer
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Best Places to Visit in Israel for Christmas Cheer

By Betsy Burlingame

Universal Tax Professionals
Universal Tax Professionals

Summary: Plan a day trip or weekend getaway to get some holiday cheer. This article highlights the best places to visit in Israel for Christmas cheer.

Living in Israel - Best Places to Visit in Israel for Christmas Cheer

As the holiday season approaches, expats and digital nomads in Israel can find a variety of places to soak up the festive atmosphere. Despite being a country where Christmas is not widely celebrated due to the Jewish majority, there are still pockets where the holiday spirit is alive and well, especially in areas with Christian communities or where international visitors frequently gather. From traditional markets to special events, here are some of the best places to visit in December to get into the holiday spirit.

Nazareth

Nazareth, the city where Jesus grew up, naturally holds a special place in the Christmas celebrations in Israel. The city comes alive with a festive Christmas market, where visitors can find handcrafted gifts, decorations, and traditional foods. The highlight is the annual Christmas parade, which typically takes place in mid-December, featuring colorful floats and marching bands. The Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth also hosts a special Christmas mass that is a profound experience for many visitors.

We Recommend: Don't miss the chance to try the local sweet treat, knafeh, a cheese pastry soaked in sweet syrup, which you'll find at many stalls in the Christmas market. It's a warm and delightful dessert that's perfect for the holiday season.

Haifa

The Holiday of Holidays in Haifa is an annual festival that celebrates the unique coexistence of the diverse cultures and faiths in the city, including Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Taking place throughout December, the festival includes a Christmas market, live performances, art exhibits, and more. The German Colony neighborhood, with its beautifully decorated streets and the Baha'i Gardens as a backdrop, is particularly festive.

We Recommend: Make sure to visit the German Colony for its stunning light displays and decorations. The area is also known for its excellent restaurants where you can enjoy a holiday meal.

Jerusalem's Christian Quarter

The Christian Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City is a must-visit for those seeking the Christmas spirit. The narrow alleys are adorned with lights and decorations, and the shops offer a variety of Christmas souvenirs and Middle Eastern crafts. The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a site of immense religious significance, holds special services during the holiday season. Additionally, the YMCA in Jerusalem often hosts a series of Christmas concerts and events that are open to the public.

We Recommend: Attend a Christmas service at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for an unforgettable experience. Also, try the local mulled wine available at some of the festive stalls.

Tel Aviv's Jaffa Neighborhood

Jaffa, the ancient port city that is now part of Tel Aviv, has a mixed Jewish and Arab population and a charming Old City that is beautifully lit up for Christmas. The Jaffa Christmas Market is a great place to find unique gifts and enjoy the holiday atmosphere. The market usually features live music, and the area's diverse restaurants offer a variety of cuisines to enjoy after shopping.

We Recommend: Explore the Jaffa Flea Market for vintage finds and antiques, and don't miss the chance to taste the local street food, such as falafel and shawarma, which are especially enjoyable on a cool December evening.

Migdal HaEmek

Migdal HaEmek may not be the first place that comes to mind for Christmas in Israel, but this town in the Northern District has a significant Christian population and celebrates the holiday with enthusiasm. The local churches hold special services and events, and the community often comes together to decorate public spaces, making it a cozy place to experience a more intimate Christmas atmosphere.

We Recommend: Visit the local churches to see their beautiful holiday decorations and to feel the close-knit community spirit that Migdal HaEmek offers during the Christmas season.

Rosh Pina

Rosh Pina, a picturesque town in the Galilee region, offers a peaceful retreat with its scenic views and historic charm. During December, the town often hosts holiday-themed events and workshops, making it a delightful spot for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The cobblestone streets and old stone buildings provide a quaint backdrop for holiday photos.

We Recommend: Participate in a holiday workshop, such as candle-making or wreath crafting, to create your own Christmas keepsake while enjoying the serene ambiance of Rosh Pina.

Akko's Old City

The Old City of Akko (Acre) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a rich history and a mixed Arab and Jewish population. During the Christmas season, the city's ancient walls and alleys are adorned with festive lights, and the local Christian community celebrates with various events and church services. The holiday atmosphere is complemented by the city's excellent seafood restaurants and historic sites.

We Recommend: Take a stroll along the harbor at night to see the Christmas lights reflecting on the water, and enjoy a festive dinner at one of Akko's renowned seafood restaurants.

Givatayim

In the heart of Israel, Givatayim may seem like an unlikely place to find Christmas cheer, but this small city near Tel Aviv has a warm community vibe that embraces holiday festivities. Local businesses and shopping centers often put up decorations and offer holiday deals, and there are usually events for children, such as puppet shows and Santa meet-and-greets.

We Recommend: Visit one of the local bakeries for seasonal treats like sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts) and rugelach, which are especially popular during the holiday season in Israel.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.


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