Nothing brings greater understanding to a child (or any person) than participating and living out something they did not fully grasp. Having a Bethlehem Village, where life is recreated in Bethlehem arond the time Jesus was born, brings the time to life and creates an understanding of what life was like and how very different life was from today’s times.
To create Bethlehem Village, three parts are required. The first part is the decorations to turn the area into Bethlehem. The second part is “shops” or stations with educational, interactive and fun activities and crafts. The third is volunteers who take the part of the villagers.
All enter Bethlehem through the Tour Guides Shop. They sign in at a Guest book and recieve their passport with a listing of all the shops and activities
For decorations, I use bales of hay, lots of fabric for table covers, scenic background, and props. Each shop is a table covered in a bright fabric with educational materials, props, pictures, and a work area.
The shops and workers are the leather-maker, the metal worker, the carpenter, the baker, Hebrew School, the Synagogue, the shepherd, the potter and the inn-keeper. Each shop has lots of information of what would have been in the shop during Jesus’ time and how things were used by the people. For activities, here is a listing of what I have done: Leather- Maker’s Shop- fake leather bookmarks, bracelets, making leather bags (to carry small items). Metal Worker-gold picture using gold foil and a wood “pencil” to draw on back. Flip over and have an embossed picture. Carptenter- wood ornaments, wood objects or blocks of wood to paint, and sandpaper. Baker- barley to grind, bakery treats (cookies) to eat. Hebrew School-Hebrew Alphabet, primer, guide, pencils, paper,dreidal with instructions and coloring pages for the children. Synagogue-Menorah, meditations with objects, list of sins and suggested sacrifieces from the Bible, coins for coin changing. Sheperds-toy sheep, mazes, puzzles, coloring pages. Potter-clay for them to shape and take home. Inn-keeper- small cot with various cleaning items, drinks, and activity to make a “Welcome” door sign.
At each shop, their passport is stamped.
After an hour of Bethlehem Village, the Magi (kings), come searching for Jesus. We follow them into the Nave where a retelling of the Nativity story is done and the Magi speak about why they search for Jesus. We sing some songs and say some prayers. We have an area for parents to take pictures of their child and the Magi.
The volunteers are gathered in advance, given their parts with information about what their shop was like. They read up on the work and the life, so that when, they come to do Bethlehem Village, they are prepared for any questions the visitors might have.
There are lots of different ways to do a Behtlehem Village. If you do it before Christmas, the Shepherds could come looking for Jesus (instead of the Magi.) Petting zoos, large animal cut-outs, or more characters can be added. For smaller, just choose four shops to have and have it before the usual Christmas Pageant.
Getting the word out to surrounding neighbors and schools, makes the event an ideal “on-ramp” for people who have not regularly attended a church. This event is fun, educational, and promotes fellowship, as well as, hospitality.
For information on items used in the shops or decorations, please click on the link. By purchasing items through the links, helps to fund this site. Thank you.