The Christmas City

The Christmas City

With festivities abuzz and lights aglow, it’s fitting for Bethlehem to be known around the world as Christmas City. The earliest inspiration for this moniker came in 1741 when Count Nicolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf and a group of Moravian missionaries settled along Monocacy Creek, naming the area Bethlehem on Christmas Eve that same year.

O Little Town of Bethlehem

In 1937, the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce saw the beauty in the city’s history and sought to make Bethlehem known across the nation as “Christmas City USA.” The chamber’s campaign urged 2,500 other chambers nationwide to support the effort and share the news. Most notably, the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce encouraged people to send their holiday cards through Bethlehem to receive the Christmas City postage cancellation. An overwhelming response saw 185,000 cards, letters, and pieces of mail arriving at the Bethlehem Post Office that year. The Christmas City postage cancellation stamp has featured either the Moravian star or the Three Wise Men.

Christmas City Star

For 82 years, the Star of Bethlehem on South Mountain has brightened the nights in Christmas City. Beautifully visible from many areas in Bethlehem at night, the star has been around as long as anyone remembers, without a clearly documented origin or anniversary. The star shines over the city with north and south-facing visibility and can be glimpsed further than 20 miles away. The Star of Bethlehem structure stands 91 feet high and 40 feet wide, boasting an impressive five-point star accentuated by eight gleaming rays. Originally, Bethlehem’s star turned on only during the Christmas season. Today, the Christmas City star relies on hundreds of 7-watt LED lights to illuminate Bethlehem’s night sky all year long.

O Christmas Tree

Anyone who’s been through the Christmas City during the holidays knows that the lights and decorations are no joke. City workers begin decorating early, decking the light posts with pre-lit Christmas trees even before Halloween. More than 800 trees spread joy throughout the city. This lovely tradition dates back about 50 years with the city working in tandem with Bethlehem’s Citizens Christmas City Committee of the Chamber of Commerce.

Bethlehem’s Community Tree Lighting Ceremony at Payrow Plaza (10 East Church St, Bethlehem) occurs in the end of November. Amid a mood set by carols, this warm and festive tradition serves as the kickoff to the holiday season in the Christmas City, featuring a visit from Santa himself with offerings of hot chocolate and sweet treats.

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