Spending Christmas in Bethlehem was the one experience we really wanted to make happen during our time in Israel. In the weeks prior to our trip there had been conflict in the West Bank - where Bethlehem is located - so we were a bit hesitant to go. But as Christmas drew near we knew we couldn't pass up this opportunity. When else will we ever have the chance to celebrate Jesus' birthday in his hometown? So on the eve of Christmas Eve we made our way to Bethlehem. It was a trip we'll never forget. We made arrangements to stay at Mary's House, a pilgrimage home run by the Bridgettine Sisters. It is a quiet oasis located just off the main roads away from the crowds and boisterous activities. Staying here was one of my favorite parts of our trip... This was the view out of our window where we could see the town of Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity - the church that marks the place where Jesus was born... After getting settled in, we made our way through the streets down to Afteem to get a taste of the best falafel in town. They were preparing the falafel right on the street and all of the food exceeded our expectations. Authentic Palestinian falafel, hummus and foul with fresh vegetables and warm pita. (Foul, pronounced ''fool'', is similar to hummus but made with fava beans). Absolutely delicious. It reminded me of our meals in Amman. If you are wondering how we manage to eat out with a two-year-old during our travels, it involves a lot of patience...and silliness. Good thing they love kids here! Remy finds himself quite amusing when he smiles with his eyes closed nowadays. I don't mind because it is pretty cute if I say so myself... Afteem is located just off Manger Square, which is the central square of the town. The huge Christmas tree and manger stood next to a stage where all the people congregated for Christmas festivities. I'm glad we arrived a day before Christmas Eve because it gave us a change to visit the square before it became too crowded. While we were down there, one of the men working by the tree picked up Remy and let him inside the gates for a photo. The ornaments were as big as his head! Similar to back in the states, the festivities heavily revolve around the children. I wasn't expecting to see Santa but he actually made an appearance handing out treat bags to all the kids in the square. We weren't planning to visit the Church of the Nativity until the next day but decided last minute to go in before heading in the for the night. While inside, a tour guide grew a liking to Remy, and he started guiding me around, talking in broken English and taking me down a flight of stairs. I had no idea where we were going. Before I knew it we were down inside the Grotto of the Nativity, standing in front of the spot where it is thought that Jesus was born. The kind guide wanted to get us down there before we missed the chance since they were closing in five minutes. I'm so thankful he did. We even had a rare moment when there were no other people around to get these photographs of my sweet boy in the place where Jesus came into this world and was first laid to sleep... As we walked back to our room, all of the lights were glowing throughout the streets and alleyways. We could hear bagpipes and drums coming from inside a courtyard where a band prepared for their march in the Christmas Eve parade. We retired early knowing the next day was going to be a long one. I'll share all about it in part two of our Christmas in Bethlehem tomorrow. Until then... (Update: read part two of this story here).