Quite distinct from the rest of the spots that you must explore when in Bethlehem, Manger Square is essentially the place that upholds all the modern principles of the 21st century; it comprises of eloquent restaurants, cafes, souvenir stores on every side with the central plaza as its pivot. This stunning Palestinian city is located on the West Bank which, in turn, is 10 km south of Jerusalem. Apart from the components that we have mentioned, two other attractions fundamentally characterize it, and they are, the Church of Nativity on the east and the Mosque of Omar on the western side. The Mosque of Omar has a very meaningful story attached to it; it was said that Caliph Omar, after capturing Byzantine Jerusalem traveled to Bethlehem and offered his prayers inside the Church of the Nativity declaring that he would let the Christians pray and practice freely at this shrine. In what better way can a city echo its cultural amalgamation stemming from two distinct religions apart from this?
The denomination of the Manger Square has been implemented from the Church of Nativity that encompasses the Grotto of the Nativity also known as the mange, the prime spot where Jesus Christ was born. Nevertheless, Manger Square goes unmentioned in the Bible, but still attracts a fair share of tourists throughout the year as it considered to be the starting point for all tours that lead to Bethlehem and hosts a string of innumerable events. The immediate neighbors of Manger Square include the Mosque of Omar and the Church of the Nativity like we have mentioned above, and the Church of St. Catherine, Bethlehem Municipality building, Bethlehem Peace Center and miscellaneous stores.
The Manger Square was not always known for the cafes and restaurants, earlier, during the Ottoman era it was an open space and the hub of livestock and fresh produce market; however, the market was later segregated and shifted to the Old City only to renovate the Square first in 1998 and then again in 2000. The Manger Square typically resembles those tourist spots where the patrons look around the space on their feet itself and are allowed to rest under the soothing shades of huge trees surrounded by benches and fountains.
The Christmas Eve extravaganza
Manger square, every year, witnesses tons of Christians from all around the world gathered to commemorate the birth of Christ and join the celebrations at the Nativity. The Church of the Nativity annually organizes a Midnight Mass right outside the Manger Square and the entire even is recorded live and aired through the giant screens installed at the site and to all the others who have been unable to visit the Nativity for Christmas. The specialty of the Manger Square is depicted through the humungous Christmas tree placed right at the center of where around which the crowds gather and sing songs of joy and carols to celebrate and pray to the Almighty. When discussing the Manger Square, let us also point out an interesting verity, that is, Christmas here is celebrated three times in a year; December 25th according to the common and traditional Western belief, January 7th as per the Orthodox calendar and lastly, January 17th as delineated by the Armenian Christian customs.