Israel, the bible land, is the country of many religions. Haifa, Jerusalem, and Nazareth are also celebrating Christmas, and this is an opportunity for Christians to celebrate Christmas when in the holy land, but also for Israelis to experience Christmas.

Nazareth is a big center of Christianity and perhaps the best place for a taste of Santa in Israel.

It seems that traffic in Nazareth is always jammed and slow.  During this season, when the city is full of tourists, it takes forever to enter the town center. While standing in traffic, I watch the decorated shop windows, a first glance at the Christmas decorations. Interestingly, nobody seems to be concerned about this, and nobody seems to blow the horn or push in, this is already a feeling that it is not typical Israel.

From early December the city is ready for Christmas. Going to my Hotel, the Legacy hotel, newly opened, there are Christmas trees placed from the hall, entrance, and in the lobby. The modern hotel has Middle Eastern touch – yellow sofas, cyan, and the flower of life is welcoming me with “Jingle Bells” music. At dinner, while I sit at the “Oud” Arabic fusion restaurant, Santa will come to visit.

Settled in, it is already afternoon and quite chilly, the first stop is Big Fashion mall, a European style shopping mall. It does feel like Europe – the mall is an open-air mall, very groomed and clean, and Christmas is in the air everywhere – from the stores, restaurants, and the public areas – Christmas tree, Santa house with its small Christmas market, and Christmas sales are announced. If you are in town with children, you may want to know that there are children activities here, including a children train. The mall is open 7 days a week, which is a treat in Israel.

Santa House - Big Fashion Mall

Time to head back to the hotel, put the shopping in the room, and head to Oud restaurant - an Arabic fusion restaurant with some creative local dishes turned into modern delights. Their salads are freshly made, as you might not know – Nazareth is the capital of Hummus! My favorite starter here was Beef stuffed pastry made of Kataif dough (usually used in local desserts). The restaurant serves a variety of salads, starters, meat, fish and seafood, and desserts.
Oud Restaurant

The next day, I went to town. The Basilica of Annunciation is right across the street from the hotel. The church is Italian and very impressive, and in the lower level you can visit the cave that was the house of Mary. From the church I head to the busy market, the heart of Nazareth. Nazareth market is a mix of souvenirs, cloths, shoes, a food market full of sounds and smells. Not far from the market (after crossing over from the Basilica) – the road will lead you to Mary’s well, a small, yet beautifully decorated church. The paintings and chandeliers are fantastic!
Church of Annunciation - View from Legacy Hotel

There is much more to see and shop in Nazareth, including Mount Precipice, local sweet shops and artists, but it’s time to go home. I’ll be back, next year, or before!

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