The Church of the Nativity belongs to three Christian denominations and Christmas is celebrated on three separate dates each year: 25 December (Latin), 7 January (Greek Orthodox), and 19 January (Armenian Orthodox). A Christmas parade on 24 December marks the start of Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem each year. The procession of the Latin Patriarch arrives from Jerusalem, making its way to the Church of Nativity through the ancient roads of Bethlehem. Later that evening, a midnight Christmas mass highlights the celebrations of Christ’s birth.
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim lunar calendar, marks the day when the holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel. Ramadan is a special month of fasting. Every day before Sunrise to Sundown, Muslims abstain from food and drink. At sundown, families gather to break the fast with a meal called Iftar. Afterwards, it is customary for Muslims to visit relatives, neighbours, and friends. Daylight signals the resumption of the fast.
The first day of the month following Ramadan, known as the month of Shawwal, marks the beginning of a three-day holiday called Eid Al-Fitr. Muslims celebrate with a feast, gifts, and visits to family and friends.
During the holy week of Easter, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre becomes a focus for Christian pilgrimage. The Easter festival formally begins with Palm Sunday, when pilgrims carry palm branches and walk from the Church of Bethphage up to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. It ends on Sunday, the resurrection day. The calendar of events during the holy week offers a variety of commemoration ceremonies. For example, on Holy Thursday, the day of the washing of feet, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem performs the ceremony in an open area outside the Church.
The evening of the twenty-seventh day of Ramadan marks the most special day of the year for Muslims when Laylat-al-Qadr is observed. Muslims believe that on this night, Prophet Muhammad first received the revelation of the Holy Quran.
According to Muslim tradition, God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael on this night. Seconds before the sacrifice, God intervened, and Abraham sacrificed a ram instead. Muslims believe that it is from Ishmael that the Arabs descend, and they commemorate this occasion at the end of the annual pilgrim to Mecca during a feast known as Al-Adha. The five-day feast is celebrated throughout the Muslim World and on the first day, Muslims sacrifice a sheep, giving some of the meat to the poor.