Christmas in Bethlehem

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Christmas City, USA

“Bethlehem did not create Christmas, Christmas created Bethlehem.”
– Vernon Melhado, President of the 1937 Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce

On Christmas Eve 1741, in a stable, while a small group of Moravians were singing a hymn with the stanza “Not Jerusalem, Lowly Bethlehem” Count Nicolaus Ludwig Von Zinzendorf christened this little town “Bethlehem”. Since that time Christmas in Bethlehem has been central to the city’s identity. From the first documented decorated Christmas tree in America to the efforts of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce to get Bethlehem nicknamed “Christmas City USA” in 1937, to the current time when both sides of the river boast Christmas markets filled with artisan craft, retail and food vendors, Bethlehem is rife with one Christmas celebration after another.

Christmas City USA

These days it takes a village to bring Christmas to Bethlehem’s residents and visitors. The following organizations work year-round to make sure your Christmas visit is enjoyable.

For a calendar of Christmas events in Bethlehem

Visit Bethlehem City
History of Christmas in Bethlehem

On Christmas Eve 1741, in a stable, while a small group of Moravians were singing a hymn with the stanza “Not Jerusalem, Lowly Bethlehem” Count Nicolaus Ludwig Von Zinzendorf christened this little town “Bethlehem”. Since that time, Christmas in Bethlehem has been central to the city’s identity.

From the first documented decorated Christmas tree in America to the efforts of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce to get Bethlehem nicknamed “Christmas City USA” in 1937, to the current time when both sides of the river boast Christmas markets filled with artisan craft, retail and food vendors, Bethlehem is rife with one Christmas celebration after another.

Bethlehem as “Christmas City USA”

In 1937, The Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce started a nationwide letter writing effort to 2,500 Chambers of Commerce asking each of them to notify their local newspapers of the campaign to make Bethlehem, Pennsylvania “the Christmas City”. It was suggested that people throughout the country send their Christmas cards to Bethlehem to receive the “Christmas City” cancellation. Most of the Chambers participated and more than 185,000 pieces of mail inundated the Bethlehem Post Office.

The “Citizens” Form a Committee

In the 1960’s the Citizens Christmas City Committee (of the Chamber of Commerce) was formed to help dignify the look of Christmas in the City of Bethlehem while at the same time absorbing a fair share of the costs of bringing Christmas to the public. The Committee continues to raise over $15,000 every year to purchase over 800 trees that are lit during the Christmas season. Sparkling white lights adorn those trees in the Historic Moravian District and beautiful, LED colored lights have been placed in the trees in the SouthSide Arts District. For more about the Citizens Christmas City Committee and how you can help please go to www.lightupbethlehem.org

Ride the free Christmas City Trolley

Ride the Free Christmas City Trolley to experience all of Bethlehem’s holiday events and attractions.

The Christmas City Trolley Schedule: Nov.16- Dec. 23

  • First trolley runs Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., and Sunday, noon – 6 p.m.
  • A second trolley runs Saturday only, noon – 6 p.m.

Trolley stops include:

  • Walnut Street Parking Garage
  • Main Street/Christmas City Village (stops at Sun Inn and Moravian Book Shop)
  • Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem and SteelStacks
  • South New Street Parking Garage (Mechanic and New Streets)

Sponsored by Historic Hotel Bethlehem and ArtsQuest

Credits

Site design by Weidenhammer. Images courtesy of Discover Lehigh Valley and Fig Bethlehem.

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