Nearly a decade ago, our church Christmas party involved visiting “Bethlehem.” Everyone walked into a church gym transformed into a dark, (fake) candlelit space with sheets hanging from the ceilings and on the floor. There were black construction paper nativity silhouettes, and space for people to sit on the floor to eat. Kids could go between stations to make themed crafts, and there was a beautiful music program. It was so special.
The church program changed each year, but we loved the idea so held onto it for our family Christmas Eve. We called it our Bethlehem dinner and it’s been a treasured Christian Christmas Eve tradition ever since.
Food for Bethlehem Dinner: Simple Christmas Eve Dinner
One of the most fun parts of our Bethlehem evening is the food! We choose a few items that might have been common during the time of Jesus’s birth, and then have some others just because they’re delicious. (We make clear to our kids that it’s not fully authentic food, but that we’re grateful to be inspired by some foods from the middle east.) I love that it’s also a simple Christmas Eve dinner to prepare, serve, and clean up before the excitement of the next day!
Here are some foods we include in our Bethlehem dinner:
- Hummus & flatbread (pita or lavash)
- Fresh veggies
- Goat cheese
- Grape juice
- Tomato & cucumber salad
- Stuffed grape leaves
Where to Host Bethlehem Christmas Dinner
We like to eat on the floor on sheets (for easy clean up) for our Bethlehem dinner tradition. It also makes it easy for kids to reach all the food! We keep things simple and just lay everything out on wooden snack boards or even wooden cutting boards. (We have this gorgeous one and also this beautiful one, as well as a couple basic ones from IKEA.)
Bethlehem Dinner Clothing
Some years, we’ve just had our kids in cozy Christmas pajamas, but other years, we’ve done our family Nativity program with caroling and playing the violin/cello beforehand, and we eat while dressed in our Bethlehem clothes. It’s very fun!
Here are the nativity costumes we have:
Bethlehem Dinner Activities
We always love having a few Christian Christmas Eve activities to go along with our Bethlehem dinner. Here’s what we do in our family:
- Sing Christmas carols (plus have the violinists and cellist play, as well)
- Play Christmas songs on the chimes (I made Dan a set 10 years ago! Here’s an almost identical set)
- Do our 25 Days of Christ advent reading and other daily advent activities
- Act out a nativity while reading Luke 2
- Read a children’s Christmas book (here’s a list of our favorites)
- Look at photos from our trip to the Holy Land a few years ago
Have you tried a Bethlehem dinner before? I’d love to hear about your Christmas Eve traditions!
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