One thing I absolutely LOVE about the area we live in, is the neat opportunities we have here to learn about other cultures, religions, & people. There is a church here in this area that does a program called "A Night in Bethlehem" every Christmas season that is simply spectacular. It doesn't matter what religion you are, this was a really cool experience & my kids loved it.
They literally build Bethlehem in the parking lot of their church building. . . sand & all & it's completely authentic. You have to pass Roman guards to get into the city (who push you around & yell at you the whole time).
There's shepherds in the fields watching over their flocks. There were lots & lots of sheep & the kids can even pet them.
The buildings are just beautiful & every building has some sort of activity or tradition for everyone to take part in. You could stomp on grapes to make wine, you could help at the olive oil press. The blacksmith was making nails & you could help build the city wall with stones . . . which the Roman soldiers would periodically push over. :-) They had a jewelry shop, a wood carver, an oils hut, all sorts of animals, a baker with free bread to eat, etc.
While we were building the wall, we saw an angel appear over the wall (which we later went back to check out up close & personal). It scared us at first until we realized what was happening. But Mary & Joseph came into the city on a donkey & they reinacted the entire "no room in the inn" scene. There was a beautiful stable at one end where they did a whole musical show with the baby Christ child.
But my kids' favorite part was when the wise men came from the East.
They had a fire dancer/swallower
And all 3 kings were brought in like royalty.
Everything ended in the beautiful manger scene with music & lights & a really bright spotlight into the sky representing the star over Bethlehem.
After watching the entire scene, we went back to the shepherds & watched the angel again. It was really cool.
They had free hot chocolate for everyone & it was just a really neat experience for the whole family. We will definitely be going back next year. I'm going to miss these fun opportunities when we leave here.