We have been holding Bethlehem Dinner for 32 years. It all started as a part of the Preschool Co-op program I used with my oldest two daughters, who are now 36 and 37. We dressed up as characters in the "Nativity Play" and pretended we were eating dinner at the Inn in Bethlehem. Most of my Children have had a chance to be "Baby Jesus" and then have grown up with this tradition.
This year was Sam's first time to attend (Far Left) and he got right into the spirit of things. Spencer, Eva, Ben and my husband Scott finish off this group.
Not everyone dresses up these days, as you can see. My son Ben, bottom far right shows off his token participation with a headband.
The table is set and read for dinner. We eat off of wooden plates, with our fingers, and drink "new wine" (grape juice) from wooden goblets.
We try to choose foods that we think would have been eaten in Bethlehem in the meridian of time. The menu includes long roasted 'fatted calf", round loaves of bread, which we tear and dip in olive oil, grapes, pomegranate, white cheeses and grape juice that we refer to as 'new wine'. My son Spencer, thought that to be authentic we needed fish, so he added sardines to the menu for the first time. He has missed two Bethlehem dinners and were thrilled to have him join us this year.
Emily, in character as Mary, made three loaves of bread for the feast. One of her quippy siblings, said it was hardly fair for 'Mary' to make the bread for the Inn and then to be refused space within.
After our dinner, we read the story of the first nativity from Luke, had a manger scene, and then sang Christmas carols. Sam and Emily are shown here with their 3 month old daughter, Becki.
We were very crowded at the table this year, and when I suggested that maybe next year we should add a table to the 'Inn', one of the kids said they thought having so many crowded around the table made it feel like the crowded Inn in which Mary and Joseph were refused accommodations.
Well, one table or two, I think this tradition will live on, thanks to the supportive people my children are choosing for spouses. I love them all.