A Quiet Bethlehem This 2020 Christmas Celebration – Jetlaggin
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A Quiet Bethlehem This 2020 Christmas Celebration

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Sans the influx of tourists in the historical birthplace of Christ, a quiet Bethlehem community gets to experience a renewal in faith over a boom in business.

Prior to the pandemic, the Palestinian city located in occupied West Bank was always filled with visiting tourists who wanted to experience walking in the land of Jesus Christ’s official birthplace. In the past, those who wanted to visit the Church of the Nativity were forced to maneuver through the crowds teeming the streets of Bethlehem. This year, however, a quiet Bethlehem becomes largely part of the massive lockdown and quarantine restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Nevertheless, the absence of tourists is an opportunity for renewal, says Father Rami Asakrieh, the parish priest of Bethlehem. “Sometimes there are more than half million people who arrive in this period to visit the Nativity Church,” he recounts.

During the days leading to Christmas, however, the Church of the Nativity has been so silent, devoid of the yearly visiting faithful who traditionally visited Bethlehem from all over the world. A quiet Bethlehem, then, is a new thing for the community as locals are used to the noisy throng of commuters and visitors who annually arrived during the holiday season.

Armenian prayers are recited by four (4) monks below the Grotto of the Nativity, echoing through the typically crowded vicinity. Even during this year’s Christmas Eve, the most essential part of the celebration, the church was closed to the public. The lack of yearly visits from Palestinian authority representatives starkly reiterated the difference of this year’s celebration, as well.

“It has never happened before,” contemplates Asakrieh, as he mentions that the only times that the church was forced to close its doors were during periods of uprisings and Palestinian intifadas that were done in protest against Israel’s continued occupation.

“I think that this Christmas is different because people are not busy with the external manifestations of the feast,” the priest shares, referring to the customary purchasing of gifts and the conduct of extravagant get-togethers that have long been linked to Christmas celebrations.  “Now (people) have the time, and they are obligated, to concentrate on the essential… the theological spirit of Christmas,” he expressed. “Less business, but more religion,” Asakrieh continues.

During the days leading up to Christmas, the chapel of Saint Catherine, a small one that is next to the Church of the Nativity was made open to the local Bethlehem public. Amid a distinctively quiet Bethlehem atmosphere, many of the local faithful turned up as they donned their Sunday’s best.

One of them was Nicolas al-Zoghbi who mentions that the usual joy of the Christmas season was replaced by the overall feeling of depression. He shares that his son is among those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. “We hope the Lord will destroy corona, just get rid of it so we can return to our previous life,” states al-Zoghbi who is now in his 70s.

The city’s economy is hugely reliant on the annual influx of visitors who purchase items like rosaries and other Nativity-based trinkets from the shops and stands that pepper the place. Thus, a quiet Bethlehem during this holiday season signifies a highly decreased income for those who rely on the earnings that used to be generated from these yearly tourist visits.

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Destinations

Plan Accordingly If You Want To Catch These Rarely Open Tourist Attractions

Check out these 5 amazing but part-time tourist attractions.

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 The word “tourist” has become a bit of a negative one at this point. And while most people try their best to avoid being included in the stigma, sometimes we just can’t help it! There are certain places we just have to see and we’re going to take as many pictures as we can.

But some of the biggest tourist attractions in the world aren’t always open! In fact, some of them are only open for a few days out of the year. So you better plan accordingly if you want to see any of them. Here are the top 5 part-time tourist attractions.

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK

Yellowstone is easily one of the most beautiful places in all of America, if not the world. The massive park spans over three states (Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho)! And while the park is technically open to the public year-round, there are certain areas that are definitely worth seeing that have limited access depending on the season.

So depending on what you want to see and experience, there are certain times of the year that are more ideal for different areas. The winters offer beautiful coach rides and snowmobiling fun. While the warmer months are great for hiking and fishing. So plan accordingly! 

CONEY ISLAND

Everybody’s heard about Coney Island. It’s a New York staple and is engrained into the identity of the city. But one of the biggest draws of Coney Island is Luna Park and it’s Ferris wheel, roller coaster, and carnival games. And unfortunately, Luna Park is only open a few months out of the year. So if you’re willing to brave the huge crowds, save a trip to Coney Island for the warm Summer months.

BUCKINGHAM PALACE

We’ve all heard about Buckingham Palace. It’s definitely one of the must-see attractions London has to offer and is right there at the top of the list with Big Ben. But you might be surprised to learn that the interior of the Place, which includes 19 staterooms, is actually only open to the public from mid-July to October 1st.

And on top of that, the lines can get out of control. So be sure to get your tickets in advance and definitely don’t skip out on the tour. If you do make the mistake of missing Buckingham altogether, travel a little out of town to take in Windsor Castle, which is something to see in and of itself.

GRAMERCY PARK

Gramercy Park is the little brother of sorts to the great New York parks of Bryant Park and Central Park. But Gramercy is still a beautiful park that is still worth exploring. Here’s the problem: it’s private! Only people that live in the nearby buildings are given keys to enter.

So if you’re in New York and want to take in this park, you better know someone that lives right next door, or you better be there on Christmas Eve. It’s the one day of the year the park is open to the public!

ICEHOTEL

This is a bit of a hidden gem as many people still don’t know about it. But this place is truly incredible. It’s in a Swedish village called Jukkasjarvi and is a hotel built entirely out of ice. And because of this, it actually melts and gets rebuilt every year! It’s only open for business from December to April. And believe me, it is definitely an experience worth having. So if you love trying new things and exploring the world, this is definitely the spot for you!

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Destinations

Underrated Travel Destinations For The Holiday Season

If you’re looking to get out of town and take a vacation this holiday season, look no further than these amazing and beautiful destinations. 

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For a lot of people, Christmas means going to home be with family. But for others, the holiday season is the perfect time to take a vacation! Everyone has a least a few days off anyway, so why not get out of town for a few days and check out some place you’ve never been before. If the latter sounds like a good idea to you, then check out this list of some of the best places in America to visit during the Christmas season.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

HERSHEY PARK, PENNSYLVANIA

Hershey Park, Pennsylvania is practically the Christmas capital of America. They have one of the most elaborate light shows you’ll ever find with over 200,000 lights in all, and you can take them in in all their glory while dancing and singing along to your favorite Christmas songs.

Hershey Park also offers Christmas-themed roller-coasters, cookie workshops, and a very convincing Santa thanks to his nine live reindeer! So if you’re already on the East Coast, or if you feel like going across the country this holiday season, Hershey Park is definitely worth a visit.

GRAND WAILEA, MAUI, HAWAII

I think, for a lot of people in America, Hawaii is the last place they think of when they think about Christmas. But it really is a great option for vacation over the Christmas holiday. And Grand Wailea in Maui is the best place in Hawaii to spend Christmas.

The theme there that time of year is “Tis the Season of Aloha,” so you know they take it seriously. And when you see Santa show up in a 25-foot outrigger canoe to kick off the tree lighting ceremony, you’ll understand why Grand Wailea is such a great place to spend Christmas.

ASPEN, COLORADO

If you’re like me and prefer the “winter wonderland” elements of the holiday season, then Aspen, Colorado is an awesome Christmas vacation destination for you. I mean, Aspen (and Colorado in general) is a beautiful place regardless of the time of year, but all those snow-covered mountains in the winter just make it a truly breathtaking sight to see.

And separate from all the great skiing and hot chocolate drinking you can do, they still have the great Christmas tradition of the Little Nell Tree Lighting ceremony. Which, naturally, includes plenty of carolers and an appearance by Santa Claus and his real live reindeer.

COCOA BEACH, FLORIDA

Similar to Grand Wailea in Maui, Cocoa Beach, Florida is an awesome beach town to check out during the holiday season. Especially if you prefer warmer weather and relaxing on the beach. Everyone in Cocoa Beach is full of Christmas cheer every year, so you’ll see plenty of surfing Santas, holiday-themed stilt walkers, and the best part of all, the annual holiday boat parade.

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH

Utah is right up there with Colorado for being one of the most beautiful states in the country. So, naturally, their biggest and brightest city, Salt Lake City, is a wonderful place to spend Christmas. Every year they host the Dickens Christmas Festival that features absolutely stunning light displays, Olde English shops, fortune tellers, and Father Christmas himself. Not to mention the yearly performance by the Utah Symphony, and the Hogle Zoo, which puts on its own incredible light decorations every year.

NORTH POLE, ALASKA

What better place to spend Christmas than the home of Santa Claus himself, North Pole! Well, to be fair, this isn’t that North Pole. But the too-quaint-too-handle Alaska town of North Pole is a beautiful place to be around Christmas. Their annual Winter Festival includes a bevy of fun activities and entertainment, including breathtaking ice sculptures and awe-inspiring firework shows.

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Destinations

Most Extravagant Rest Stops and Gas Stations Across The Globe

These are the best rest stops and gas stations from around the world that will make your stop a paradise instead of just a necessity.

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When you’re on the road one major source of entertainment is every gas station or rest stop where you decide to take a break. Some rest stops are a lot of fun while others just don’t live up to the excitement you have in your head. Usually, people have very low expectations for rest stops, as they should, they’re just there so you can hit the can, buy a Snapple and hop back on the road.

But some rest stops offer a magical wonderland that you could spend hours in. When you find a good rest stop it’s like you’ve hit gold. Suddenly your long boring road trip seems all worth it, and you haven’t even reached your destination yet.

These are the best rest stops and gas stations from around the world that will make your stop a paradise instead of just a necessity.

POPS, ARCADIA, OKLAHOMA

Pops is pretty easy to see thanks to the 66-foot-tall soda bottle that is in front of the station. At night the bottle even lights up which makes it even easier to see and probably attracts billions of moths. It makes sense that the bottle is 66 feet high considering it is on Route 66. No matter what you’re looking for, you will enjoy your stop at Pops in Arcadia. We recommend hitting the restaurant that has over 700 types of sodas and seltzers. Now that’s refreshing!

ALZU PETROPORT, NEAR MIDDELBURG, SOUTH AFRICA

How about a rest stop with rhinos, ostriches, and buffalos? Does that sound like something you’d be interested in? Well then head to Alzu Petroport which is adjacent to a wildlife preserve. This means after you hit the restrooms and gas up the ride, you can stare in awe of the many animals you can see directly from the rest stop. Now that sounds like a good place to take a break and eat lunch.

TRAIL’S TRAVEL CENTER, ALBERT LEA, MINNESOTA

This seems like a regular gas station from the front, but when you walk in you quickly notice that this place holds laundry, church services, and even a movie theater. So if you’re getting tired of driving, pop in here and catch a flick, or get married. Either activity is totally possible at Trail’s Travel Center. There is also a huge selection of whiskey, the biggest in all of Minnesota right here so if you’re a fan of the brown liquor then Trail’s is for you.

GAZOLINE PETROL, CUNEO, ITALY

Usually, when you take a picture of a rest area it’s because of something horrifying you found inside a toilet bowl. But at the Gazoline Petrol, you will take picture after picture of the building itself because the architecture is simply stunning.

ORIVAL GAS STATION, ORIVAL, BELGIUM

This is considered one of the world’s most beautiful gas station and it is easy to see why. There are beautifully landscaped parks as well as expertly curated art galleries. Usually, the only art you see at rest stops lies on mud flaps but not at Orival Gas Station. You won’t want to just stop at Orival, you’ll want to stay there and never ever leave.

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