Twelve days of Christmas in the Christmas City

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A gingerbread house of Snoopy on top of his Christmas decorated dog house is displayed in the Gingerbread House Exhibit. This gingerbread house and several others are displayed at the Connect Zone at the ArtsQuest Center until Dec. 18. (Danielle Bettermann/B&W Staff)

In 1741, 275 years ago, members of the Moravian Church christened Bethlehem on Christmas Eve while singing the hymn “Not Jerusalem, Lowly Bethlehem.” The events of this night gave current residents of Bethlehem reason to call their home “Christmas City, USA.”

This Christmas season, Bethlehem is celebrating the city’s anniversary with several Christmas-themed events, old and new hosted by organizations such as ArtsQuest, the Downtown Bethlehem Association and the Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites.

“One of the great things about Bethlehem at Christmastime is that there are so many different things to do,” said Mark Demko, the senior director of communications for ArtsQuest.

LoriAnn Wukitsch, the vice president and managing director of the Historic Bethlehem Museum & Sites, said one of the biggest challenges for the organization is getting students and South Side residents more knowledgeable about what is offered on the other side of the bridge.

Here are 12 ways students can get out and celebrate Christmas in Christmas City:

1. Christkindlmarkt

When: Thursdays and Sundays 11 a.m.- 6 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Where: Steel Stacks

Cost: $9 for a day pass. Free for ArtsQuest members.

For the past 24 years, ArtsQuest has been holding its five-week indoor Christkindlmarkt festival at the Steel Stacks, and Demko said the event has grown over time.

This year, organizers doubled the number of tents from two to four. Every weekend, from Thursday to Sunday, about 130 vendors sell a variety of unique gift options. There are food vendors, performances and activities such as glassblowing and ice sculpting demonstrations. A traditional St. Nicholas has his own tent, and visitors are encouraged to take photos with him.

2. Weihnachtsmart

When: Fridays and Saturdays at 11 a.m. – 8 p.m., Sundays at 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. until Dec. 18

Where: 556 Main St.

Cost: Free

The five-week Christmas City Village, an authentic German Weihnachtsmarkt, is located at the Sun Inn Courtyard. Tim Brooks, the Downtown Bethlehem association manager, said the event features 26 individual huts, each a space for a different vendor. Vendors in attendance change from week to week.

This event and Christkindlmarkt are on the same schedules, making it easier for visitors to attend both.

“We do a lot of things in conjunction with Christkindlmarkt on the South Side, we partner with ArtsQuest throughout the year for a bunch of different things,” Brooks said. “We have a free trolley that runs between them, so that’s why we have the same starting dates.”

Visitors can travel between the events at ArtsQuest to the North Side on the free trolley designated for the Christmas events. It stops in front of Christkindlmarkt, the Moravian Book Shop and the Christmas City Village.

3. The Live Advent Calendar

When: Every day at 5:30 p.m. until Dec. 23

Where: 1810 Goundie House

Cost: Free

Every day the Downtown Bethlehem Association, in conjunction with the Historic Bethlehem Museum & Sites, hosts Bethlehem’s countdown-to-Christmas Live Advent Calendar. Wukitsch said this event is the only one of its kind in the country.

“I’ll go down every day, and I’ll ring a big bell to try and generate people to come for about 15 minutes, and promptly at 5:30 we’ll choose a child to come up with me and use the knocker on the door of the Goundie House,” Brooks said. “I’ll whisk the child away quickly, so they don’t get run over and then the entertainment will come out and (a local business) will (provide entertainment and) give out their treat.”

4. Trees of Historic Bethlehem Exhibit

When: Every day until Jan. 15, Monday-Wednesday by appointment, Thursday-Friday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday-Sunday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Where: 1810 Groundie House

Cost: $15

The Historic Bethlehem Museum & Sites is hosting the Trees of Bethlehem exhibit, where several trees are decorated in five of the historic buildings by Bethlehem’s Garden Club, in a theme commemorating a Christmas carol.Visitors can tour the trees and vote on their favorite one. There is also an exhibit called “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” which features women’s winter wear from the 1800s to recent years.

5. Christmas City Strolls

When: Every day until Jan. 8, varying times listed online

Where: Historic Bethlehem Visitor Center & Museum Store (505 Main St.)

Cost:  $15 per adult, $9 per child

The Christmas City strolls allow residents and visitors to learn more about the city’s historic past. On the stroll visitors will learn about Bethlehem’s unique beginning in 1741, the tales of a candle-in-every-window and the the story behind the Bethlehem Star.

The strolls educate visitors about Bethlehem’s Victorian architecture and feature two national historic sites the 1741 Gemeinhaus and the Bethlehem Waterworks.

“It’s never too late to start learning about the history of your community, and with this year’s celebration, its quite a fabulous time,” Wukitsch said. “It’s fun to be downtown and be in the spirit of what the Moravians started so many years ago.

6. Bethlehem by Night Tours

When: Holiday season offerings until Dec. 30, varying times listed online

Where: Historic Bethlehem Visitor Center & Museum Store (505 Main St.)

Cost:  $15 for adults, $9 for children

For those who may not want to walk, the Bethlehem by Night Tours take visitors on a bus tour to the Bethlehem Star that tops South Mountain. The tours provide visitors with a look at early and current local holiday traditions, and access to historic highlights in both north and south Bethlehem.

7. Horse-drawn carriage rides

When: Every day until Dec. 31

Where: Bethlehem’s downtown National Historic Landmark District

Cost:  $60, seats up to four people

For visitors who want a quintessential Christmas experience, the opportunity to tour Bethlehem’s historic North Side by way of a horse-drawn carriage is available.

Carriage rides provide a cozy, alternative means of viewing the lights and sights of Christmas City during the holiday season.

8. Gingerbread House Competition and Exhibit

When: Until Dec. 18

Where: Connect Zone at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks (101 Founders Way)

Cost: Free

Residents who registered by Nov. 11 had the opportunity to create gingerbread houses and enter them in the SteelStacks’ competition. Visitors can view the displays and vote on their favorite.

Submissions for houses were entered in one of five categories: Traditional Gingerbread House; Student Gingerbread House Creation for grades 6-8; Student Gingerbread House Creation for grades 9-12; Kids & Family Gingerbread Creation for ages 12 and under; and the Reproduction of Your Favorite Musikfest “Platz.”

9. Christmas Classic Matinee Series

When: Shows open varying dates and times, see online for more details

Where: Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas, ArtsQuest

Cost:  $10 regular, $8 student and senior, $7.50 member

Visitors to ArtsQuest’s Frank Bank Alehouse can enjoy an array of Christmas-themed performances throughout the holiday season. Performances include: Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life and holiday quote-a-long series.

10. Moravian Story Walking Tour

When: Through Jan. 8, except Dec. 24, 25 or Jan. 1; Monday-Wednesday by appointment; Thursday-Sunday 2 p.m.

Where:  Moravian Museum of Bethlehem (66 West Church St.)

Cost:  $15 for adults, $9 for children

While other walking tours offer the history of Bethlehem and a view at the city’s Christmas Traditions, the Moravian Story Walking Tour educates visitors about the history of the Moravians in Bethlehem.

The tour visits Tour the 1752 apothecary, the 1758/1765 Nain-Schober House, and the newly opened 1744/1752 sections of the Single Sisters’ House to educate residents of the Moravian’s influence on the innovation of medicine, architecture, ministry and music.

11. Hotel Bethlehem Tour

When: 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. through Jan. 14

Where: Hotel Bethlehem (573 Main St.)

Cost:  Free

This free, self-guided tour allows visitors to explore the North Side’s historic Hotel Bethlehem at their own leisure.

Visitors can walk through the hotel and view over 35,000+ lights, 26 sparkling Christmas trees, 36 wreaths, six 7 foot toy soldiers, two 6-foot nutcrackers and a special handcrafted gingerbread house replica of Historic Hotel Bethlehem.

12. Bethlehem’s Christmas, 1741

When: Until Jan. 8. Thursday-Friday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Saturday – Sunday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Where: 66 West Church St.

Cost: Free with ‘a Pass Into History’, available at the Moravian Museum of Bethlehem, Kemerer Museum of Decorative Arts, Visitor Center and online.

In honor of the 275th Anniversary of the 1741 Gemeinhaus, the Bethlehem’s Christmas, 1741, exhibit highlights the very first Christmas in Bethlehem.

Visitors can learn about Moravian Traditions such as Lovefeasts, The Moravian Daily Texts, and Putzes, as well as how Bethlehem got its name and how the traditions of 1741 are practiced by Moravians in Bethlehem today. On display are early Moravian Christmas decorations from the Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites Collection.

Visitors have the opportunity to create their own Moravian Stars and dress a Beeswax Candle.

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