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Bethlehem Today

Many of us that are familiar with the story of Jesus’ birth have a rosy, Christmas-tinted view of Bethlehem. We envision Mary on the donkey, the full inn, and the idyllic stable with just a handful of clean and sweet-smelling animals. Clean straw covers the floor. Nativities depicting this scene can be purchased at, for example.

But what is Bethlehem like today? Would the little town of Bethlehem still be recognizable to Mary and Joseph? Can we still see a little bit of what it was like at the time of Jesus’ birth?

Bethlehem today is a small city of about 22,000 people. It is controlled by the Palestinian Authority rather than Israel and has a mixed religious population. Two suburbs and settlements controlled by the Israelis surround the city.

As might be suspected, shopping is a bustling tourist industry in modern day Bethlehem, especially at Christmastime. Shops line the streets, and the proprietors can be found selling a multitude of items native to the area, such as jewelry and spices. Olive wood carvings, such as those found at, are the best selling items among pilgrims visiting Bethlehem.

At one point in the mid-twentieth century, when the British first left Palestine, Christians made up a huge majority of the population of Bethlehem, but they have been a shrinking minority for the last 20 years. As evidence of the Christian heritage of the city, there are several churches throughout the city commemorating the birth of Christ, most famously the Nativity Church. This is the oldest remaining church in the Holy Land and was built by Constantine and him mother, Helena. It is rather plain on the outside but quite beautiful on the inside. Ancient mosaics can be found covered by the current floor.

Ancient tradition points to a cave as the place of Jesus’ birth, since animals were often housed in caves for shelter and safety. The Byzantine church was erected around the cave that was believed to be the site of the nativity, and a star marks the area on the floor that traditionally is the exact spot where Mary gave birth to the baby Jesus.

Even today shepherds can be found “watching their flocks by night” outside of the city. Shepherds still wear the traditional garb and can give us a peek into what it may have looked like on that holy night when the angels appeared to the shepherds.


Five Tips for Selecting a Kids Cross Necklace

One of the nicest Christian gifts you can give a child is a kids cross necklace. The gift of a cross necklace is both personal and meaningful, making it ideal for any occasion, and as there are so many different cross styles available, it is fairly easy to find a kids cross necklace to suit nearly anyone. Here are five great tips for choosing a necklace to suit the recipient perfectly.

Choose the Right Size

When choosing a kids cross necklace, be sure to select one that will fit the child you will be giving it to. Some crosses are made just for children, while others may look as if they are, but may have chains that are too long. To get a perfect fit, prevent tangles, and make sure the cross looks right when worn, either select a cross necklace with an adjustable cord, or purchase a cord or chain separately. Finally, keep in mind that jewelers have the ability to cut chains for a customized fit.

Look For an Appealing Style

Like adults, kids definitely have their own senses of style. Keep in mind that while a certain kids cross necklace style might appeal to your sense of taste, it’s most important to choose a religious cross necklace that will appeal to the child’s individual sense of style.

Select an Appropriate Material

While it might be tempting to purchase a cross made with silver, gold, or even platinum, remember that kids can be tough on their possessions, and that they often lose small items. While you don’t want to present a child with a cross that will turn his or her neck green, the temptation to purchase a cross made from cheap metal can be strong. Instead, why not look into an olivewood cross necklace for boys, or a cross made with mother of pearl for girls?

Watch Out for Overpriced Items

Unless you decide to purchase a kids cross necklace made with precious metal or gemstones, you shouldn’t have to pay more than about twenty dollars for it. You can even find fantastic crosses for kids for less than ten dollars.

Keep Personality and Occasion in Mind

Finally, be sure you keep the recipient’s personality in mind, and give some thought to the occasion you are presenting the cross necklace for, as well. Making a careful selection will help to ensure that the child who receives the cross likes it.

You’ll find a wonderful selection of crosses, cross necklaces, and other outstanding Christian gifts at Not only do we carry an excellent array of items handcrafted by artisans in the Holy Land, our prices are reasonable, as are shipping charges. Spend just a few minutes browsing, and you’ll almost certainly find just what you are looking for.

Gift Ideas for Pastors and Priests

It can be difficult to buy presents for pastors and priests. What do they need? What do they want? What do they not already have ten thousand versions of? What would they appreciate? What would make them feel appreciated? The questions just keep coming …

Yet we do want to show our love and gratitude to our spiritual leaders. We do want to show them that we care. But, how do we do that? What do we give our pastor or priest for a gift?

One idea is to get them something that isn’t really for them. One family bought a sheep for a family in India in honor of their pastor. And he loved it. Another family donated a rocking chair to the church in his honor. The new mothers in the church loved it!

Another idea is to commit your prayer to your pastor. What better gift is there than the gift of prayer? Your pastor or priest will be encouraged and comforted by the idea that you have committed to pray for him. You might want to accompany this promise with a physical gift that symbolizes your commitment, such as this Jesus praying hands sculpture.

Sometimes we do want to deliver an actual wrapped gift into our leader’s hardworking hands. You might consider this comfort cross made of olive wood. It is a popular, affordable, and meaningful gift option. For a more traditional version of this gift, check out this olive wood cross.

If a physical gift isn’t important to you, you might want to consider gifting your pastor or priest with financial support. Sometimes a loving gift of money or gift cards can make a world of difference in a pastor’s life. You could also ask others members of your congregation to contribute.

You could also read your priest’s mind. What does he like to do? What would he spend money on? A hunting license? A golf outing? A concert? Movie tickets? A Netflix subscription? An overnight at a bed and breakfast? You know your pastor. What would be a special treat that you could help him afford?

If you are the crafty type, consider creating a gratitude scrapbook. You might ask members of your parish to contribute photos or other keepsakes. Then assemble them into a scrapbook with a “thank you for your service” theme. Your priest will love it.

Gift-Giving as a Love Language

If you’ve not already read The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, do it! What started out as a book has turned into an empire. There is now a “men’s edition” and an edition for parenting. There’s a couple’s study Bible and a series of children’s books.

Here it is in a nutshell: each of us expresses and receives love in one of five ways. (We may be multilingual, but we each have one dominant love language.) These love languages are: words, acts of service, touch, quality time, and gift-giving.

I must admit—when I first read this book, the gift-giving love language completely stumped me. Sure, giving and receiving gifts is fun and important, but can it really be placed in the same category as touch and words?

But then I had an experience. You see, I have a loved one who loves to give me gifts. For years, this has made me feel bad. She spends lots of money on me and then I feel guilty. She buys me expensive gifts that I don’t need. And she buys me many gifts.

Especially at Christmas. This wonderful woman buys (and individually wraps) at least a dozen ornaments for me. I mean, how many Christmas ornaments does one family need? (Although I do really love my holy family at manger Christmas ornament.) But still, on every occasion, she would get me gifts. And on every occasion, I would not understand.

On occasion, I even refused her gifts. On occasion, I even acted ungrateful. And I did an absolutely terrible job of giving her gifts in return. What a dummy, right?

One day, it hit me. Oh no! That’s her love language! She thinks I don’t love her! And just like that, I realized that I wasn’t letting her love me either.

And in that moment, I vowed to take my gift-giving and receiving a little more seriously. Now, I receive her gifts with gratitude and appreciation. Now, I spend way more time thinking about what to get her for gifts. (Right now I’m debating between the mother of pearl camel pin and the mother of pearl bracelet with cross. Shh…don’t tell!)

Today, I realize that gift-giving is a gift in and of itself. And even though it is not my love language, it is the love language of many, and from here on out, I will make an effort to honor that.

Gifts for Catholic Confirmation: Five Fantastic Ideas

Gifts for Catholic Confirmation should celebrate the Confirmand’s deepening faith. Here are five gifts that are suitable for giving Catholic Confirmation recipients.

Gifts for Catholic Confirmation don’t have to be expensive, but they should be memorable. As the sacrament of Confirmation is part of an important life transition for Catholics, many families celebrate by hosting parties, and many churches bring their congregations together to celebrate. If you have friends, relatives, or acquaintances who are receiving the Sacrament, you’ll find the following suggestions concerning gifts for Catholic Confirmation to be useful.

Confirmation Blessing Keepsake

You can easily create a Confirmation blessing keepsake using your favorite medium; whether you woodburn the following inscription into a plaque or cross-stitch it onto a piece of fabric to frame, it will certainly be appreciated:

May Truth Be Your Guiding Star, and May the Word of God Always be your Most Trusted Counsel and Your Heart’s Greatest Treasure.

Add the confirmand’s name and the date of his or her confirmation, and you’ll be all set.

A Rosary

The Roman Catholic Rosary is a wonderful tool for daily prayer, or for simple meditation. While most Catholics know about the rosary, many wish they would remember to use their rosaries more often. Mother of pearl rosaries and wooden rosaries from Bethlehem are beautiful and will last a lifetime. If you are sponsoring a confirmand, the gift of the rosary takes on even greater significance.

A Survival Kit from God

You can put this little kit together with a few simple items, and enclose it in a wooden keepsake box:

  • A Lollipop to Lick Your Problems
  • Life Savers to Help Keep You from Drowning in Everyday Concerns
  • A String to Help Tie Up Your Loose Ends
  • An Olivewood cross to Keep Things In Perspective

While these gifts for Catholic Confirmation are simple, they’re certainly meaningful! If you are giving several confirmation gifts, you’ll appreciate the fact that this idea is an extremely cost-effective one.

A Cross

A simple cross, be it one that can be worn around the neck, or a larger one designed to be displayed on a wall, is one of the most popular gifts for Catholic Confirmation. Another type of cross that makes an outstanding Confirmation gift is the Comfort Cross, which is just the right size for carrying in a purse or pocket. Much like a worry stone, this smooth, contoured cross improves as time passes.

Sacred Artwork

Sacred artwork isn’t just for churches! Just like crosses and crucifixes, these unique pieces of artwork are wonderful for display in the home. Whether you go for a classic painting or a replica of Michelangelo’s Pieta, a simple set of praying hands, or a lovely sculpture depicting the Holy Family, it is certain to be well received.

You’ll find plenty of gifts for Catholic Confirmation at Whether you’re assembling a gift basket, putting together a survival kit from God, or simply giving a traditional Confirmation gift like a rosary, you will appreciate both the affordable prices and the exceptional craftsmanship the site offers.

Gifts for Catholic Confirmation: Handcrafted Rosaries

While there are many fantastic Catholic confirmation gifts available, handcrafted rosaries are at the top of the list – and for a very good reason. Many young Catholics are not exposed to the rosary, as today’s families are often too busy to pray together regularly; and many adults who are new to the Catholic faith have lots on their plates, including many things to learn about being Catholic. It’s important to stress here that the rosary is not just for Catholics; however, we’re going to focus today on what makes handcrafted rosaries such a great traditional Catholic gift.

A Brief Introduction to the Rosary

The rosary, which is a combined form of meditation and prayer, has been in existence for a little over 1200 years. Its origin is alternately traced to hermits keeping track of prayers sometime before 300 CE, and to Irish monks living in the 9th century, who needed a better way to keep track of the psalms they recited daily.

The rosary truly became the “People’s Prayer” when people who came to hear the monks chanting psalms were advised to say 150 Pater Nosters in place of the psalms, which were difficult to memorize. As this form of prayer became more popular, people began devising methods for keeping track of the prayers they were saying. Some kept pebbles in pouches, but eventually, the idea of counting with a strand of thin rope with 50 knots on it became popular, then people began replacing the knots with pieces of wood – maybe because they lasted longer, and perhaps because of wood’s appealing look.

These first handcrafted rosaries were very simple, and did not contain the same decorative elements you see on today’s rosaries. However, as the prayers of the rosary developed and changed, the rosary itself went through a transformation. Saint Louis de Montfort is credited with developing the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious mysteries or meditations used throughout the decades of the rosary, and Pope John Paul II developed the Luminous mysteries, which focus on Jesus’ ministry and works.

Just having a rosary in one’s pocket can help every day go better, and can keep Catholics and other Christians better grounded by providing a physical reminder of the fact that faith in God is what is truly important. Praying the rosary or using it to meditate has many physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits; no wonder this prayer form has endured for nearly two millennia. A rosary from the Holy Land is a real treasure since it comes from the place where Jesus lived; thus, one of these rosaries is a gift the recipient is certain to enjoy for a lifetime, and it’s the reason they make such great gift for Catholic Confirmation

Where to Find Handcrafted Rosaries from the Holy Land

You might think handcrafted rosaries from the Holy Land would be difficult to find or prohibitively expensive; in fact, they’re easy to locate and at, they are surprisingly inexpensive. If you’re looking for a Confirmation gift or a significant religious gift of any type, spending just a few moments here will yield outstanding results.

Gifts for Christians: The Handcrafted Rosary

A handcrafted rosary makes a wonderful Christian gift for any occasion. While Catholic rosary beads hold a certain sense of mystery for other Christians, they are actually a fantastic tool anyone can use to improve the practice of prayer, and to increase focus while meditating. Here, we’ll share some valuable information about the rosary itself, plus some handcrafted rosary sources.

The Rosary’s History

The rosary itself, as it is known today has remained the same since the fifteenth century. Even the prayers traditionally associated with the rosary have remained the same; and with the exception of the Luminous mysteries, which were added by Pope John Paul II in 2002, the traditional meditation mysteries have remained the same.

The rosary’s history can be traced back to about 290 AD, when hermits used to use sticks and stones to count their prayers. Later, Irish Monks developed a system for tracking the 150 Psalms they would read, sing, and meditate on each day; this system was later developed into the rosary Catholics have been praying for centuries. It’s not surprising that a handcrafted rosary was considered to be a great gift back in those early days, just as it is now.

Using the Rosary to Meditate

While Catholics and some other Christians may prefer to use traditional prayers long associated with Roman Catholic rosaries, it is also possible to use the rosary as a tool for meditation without saying structured prayers.

At heart, the rosary is a devotional tool that can bring one closer to Christ. One can use this contemplative tool simply as a device to provide a tactile sensation in the hands while meditating. This works very well for people who tend to focus better when holding items in their hands or rubbing a worry stone; bring your thoughts, prayers, dreams, and worries to God while holding the rosary, and you’ll find your mind is less likely to wander.

If you maintain a long list of people you pray for, or if you have a tendency to forget your prayers, you can use the rosary as a way to remember each person on your list. Use each bead to symbolize a person, and bring concerns about each to God as you hold a particular bead in your hand. If you’re often busy and forget to pray or if you find yourself stressed out and distracted by everyday concerns, keeping a rosary in your pocket can help you remember what’s truly important.

Where to Get a Handcrafted Rosary

There are a few different places where you can find a handcrafted rosary to keep with you or to give a fellow Christian. Some Catholic bible study groups make rosaries while discussing scripture as a way to keep their minds focused and to keep their hands busy; some Catholic nuns also make rosaries for distribution.

If you like, you can purchase rosaries online; some wonderfully meaningful ones are crafted in the Holy Land by Christians who make religious gifts for a living. Whether you choose one of olive wood or mother of pearl, you’ll find using the rosary regularly can help deepen your connection with the divine.

Five Ways to Display a Christian Christmas Ornament

A beautiful Christian Christmas ornament is right at home on the Christmas tree. This Christmas, try displaying a Christian ornament in a whole new way.

Some Christmas ornaments are meant to blend into the background; others, particularly a beautiful Christian Christmas ornament, are best when showcased. Here, we’ll share some Christmas decorating ideas for showcasing any special ornament, including a special Christian Christmas ornament. If you need ideas for decorating a small space for Christmas, you’ll find the following methods for displaying ornaments can be easily adapted.

House It in a Jar or Canister

If you’ve got curious children or pets at home, or if you simply wish there was an easy way to keep your favorite Christian Christmas ornaments or mini Christmas Nativity sets free from dust, you’ll love this idea. House special ornaments inside a jar or canister, where they’re less likely to be damaged or get dirty. This idea is one that works very well for antique Christmas ornaments, as well as for special paper ornaments and fanciful gift tags. You can set the ornament on a shelf or tabletop and turn the jar over so it covers it, or you can use strong tape to fasten the ornament’s hanger to the lid for a look that’s both interesting and visually appealing. Cover the lid with pretty fabric or paper for an extra-festive touch.

Hang it From a Mirror

Using special ribbon that complements the rest of your décor, hang that special Christian Christmas ornament from the top of a mirror. You can do the same thing with a small wreath; add extra greenery for a lively touch.

Hang it From a Window

Windows are wonderful spaces for showcasing special Christmas ornaments. Create a display using several ornaments, or try hanging one olive wood nativity ornament in the window for an understated look that reminds viewers of the true meaning of Christmas. Use special ribbon, or keep it simple; the choice is yours.

Use an Ornament Stand

Ornament stands are designed to let you show off unique Christmas ornaments. Usually made with metal, they are inexpensive and can be found at most stores that carry Christmas decorations. Be sure to measure the ornament you want to display before you purchase the stand, as some oversized ornaments are a bit too large to fit in a standard small ornament display stand.

Create a Mini Christmas Tree

Perfect for a tabletop, buffet, or mantelpiece, a miniature Christmas tree is perfect for displaying a small collection of favorite ornaments that are similar to one another. You can easily create a small tree using heavy gauge copper wire, pipe cleaners, or other flexible materials, then decorate it with the ornaments you want to show off.

Finally, a great way to showcase a Christian Christmas ornament is to use ribbon to tie it to the top of a gift you’re giving someone! This way, everyone can enjoy the ornament before the gift is unwrapped, and the recipient can go on to enjoy it year after year – maybe using one of the ornament display ideas we’ve shared above.



Five Top Christian Gifts for Men

Selecting Christian gifts for men may sound like a difficult prospect, but the truth is, once you know what to look for, the process suddenly seems much easier. Here, we’ll take a look at five top Christian gifts for men. These gifts are ideal for any occasion, and are certain to be ideal for nearly any man who identifies as a Christian.

Religious Art

There are many different types of religious art, and depending on the individual’s taste, at least one type of religious art is sure to appeal to him.

  • Classic Images – Classic images by artists such as Michelangelo are certain to appeal to the Christian man who has a refined sense of taste. Other images, such as those depicting the Last Supper or the Good Shepherd for example, have been rendered by various artists using a variety of styles.
  • Carvings – A praying hands statue or a carving depicting the head of Christ is a fantastic piece of religious art that looks fantastic in nearly any setting.
  • Art Books – Great for a coffee table, religious art books are a nice choice for that person who has everything.


Crosses come in a wonderful variety of shapes and sizes, as well as in a variety of styles. While you can find crosses made with ceramic, metal, and other common materials, some of the nicest are made with Bethlehem olivewood. Crosses are perfect for displaying in any room and make excellent Christian gifts for men.


Once considered to be exclusively for Catholics, rosaries actually make great Christian gifts for men of any religious affiliation. Perfect for any man who wants to increase his spiritual strength, or who is looking for a way to improve his ability to meditate, rosaries make truly unique gifts for any occasion.

Bibles and Accessories

Bibles and bible accessories such as index tabs, bible covers, and bookmarks make outstanding gifts for all Christians. There are many different types of bibles to choose from:

  • Study Bibles – These bibles often contain footnotes and other special features that make bible studies more enriching.
  • Family Bibles – Every family should have a classic family bible! Many of these bibles have space for recording genealogical information, and many are designed to be passed from one generation to the next.
  • Large Print Bibles – The perfect choice for anyone with aging eyes, large print bibles make great Christian gifts for men such as uncles, grandfathers, and even for dads who are getting older.

Religious Jewelry

While some men don’t care much for jewelry, most men appreciate simple items like crosses which can be worn under everyday attire. If you’re considering the gift of religious jewelry, be sure to keep the recipient’s sense of taste in mind.

For an outstanding array of Christian gifts for men – and for everyone else on your list – be sure to take a few minutes to visit You’ll love the prices, the selection, and more.


Five Essentials for Selecting Fundraising Ideas for Churches

When choosing fundraising ideas for churches, it’s vital that you know what works, and what does not. Here are five essentials for churches in need of fundraising ideas.

When searching for fundraising ideas for churches, you’ll come across all sorts of items. Cookies, scented candles, candy, and other consumable goods tend to be popular, but selecting these items for your fundraiser often results in poor sales. Instead of leaving things up to chance, follow these five essentials for selecting fundraising ideas for churches. You’ll be glad you did.

Have a Vision

Whether working to create a successful church youth fundraiser or a general fundraiser for making improvements or repairs to your church building, it is vital that you prayerfully set a vision for that fundraising effort. What does God call your church to do? Keeping fundraising ideas for churches in line with the overall mission of your church will help to inspire people to volunteer with fundraising efforts, and it will help propel sales.

Communicate Your Case Using Compelling Language

People are driven to act when they hear strong, compelling messages. It’s vital that fundraising ideas for churches include items that people will feel an emotional connection to, and it’s important that in building your fundraiser, you help not just your own community, but an underserved population of some type. We are called to give alms, and when we know that a portion of proceeds from items we purchase goes to a worthy cause, we’re compelled to make good buying decisions. Striking a balance between salesmanship and a vision of service will lead to strong sales.

Ensure Everyone is Committed to Success

While many people within faith communities are capable of coming up with interesting fundraising ideas for churches, it can be tough to find a committed team of people with the time and organizational skills required to run a successful fundraiser. Build a team that is capable of seeing the vision, using compelling language, and committing fully to the fundraising process. If you feel someone is at risk of overcommitting, be honest as you discuss issues surrounding the level of commitment surrounding various tasks. In addition, don’t feel badly about selecting your fundraising team with care. After all, your mission is important and you need a committed team in order to be successful.

Educate Everyone Involved

Once you have selected a fundraiser, educate everyone involved, from church leadership to congregation.

  • Church leadership should be aware of the mission and have knowledge about the products and benefits associated with those products.
  • Team members must have product knowledge and the ability to provide potential buyers with information about those products – essentially, they must educate their customers.
  • Congregations and potential customers need to be provided with background information about the items for sale. For example, they should know that the praying hands statue on sale is not made in a Chinese factory; instead, it’s made by a Christian artisan who will receive part of the proceeds from its sale. This type of education is crucial and will have a positive effect on sales.

Work With A Well-Established Fundraising Organization

Well-established fundraising organizations like have products and programs designed to lead to church fundraising success. By selecting an organization capable of helping you with every step of the process, you ensure your fundraiser goes smoothly and is as profitable as possible.


Christmas in the Holy Land

Christians in Bethlehem and the rest of the area commonly referred to as the Holy Land celebrate Christmas – but in a different way than we in the Western world tend to. Whether you’ve made a tradition of giving simple gifts like the ones we offer to your loved ones, or if this is your first time exploring our website, we think you’ll enjoy this peek into what Christmas is like in the land where Jesus was born.

Traditions and Travelers

During the Christmas season, pilgrims flock to Bethlehem, all hoping to catch a glimpse of the famous Grotto where a 14-pointed silver star decorates the floor at the very spot where Jesus is said to have been born.

Whether at Shepherd’s Fields, Manger Square, St. Catherine’s Church, or any other Bethlehem location, visitors are amazed by the warm welcome they receive and by the intense experience of spending Christmas in the land where Jesus was born, lived his life, and gave the ultimate sacrifice for all of us. Christians in Bethlehem see visitors all year round, but during the Christmas season, people from all around the world come to the place where the greatest miracle of all took place more than two thousand years ago.

What most impresses many is the lack of commercialism. While in Western society the concept of Christmas goes hand in hand with Santa Claus, loads of toys, and all kinds of fantastic things, in Bethlehem, Christmas is about remembering the birth of the savior – though celebrations and gift giving do take place, and though a few people do dress up as Santa Claus.

Up and down the streets, simple light displays are set up, and stages are erected for musical performances and Christmas plays. A Christmas bazaar offers goodies and local toys, along with some olivewood Christmas ornaments and other gifts much like the ones you’ll find on our site.

Three Christmas Eves are celebrated in the Holy Land. On the 24th of December, Roman Catholics and Protestants celebrate in one location, while Greek Orthodox, Coptic, and Syrian Christians celebrate at a second location on January 6th. At the third locale, on January 18th, Armenian Christians celebrate in their own way, but Jesus is the thread that binds them all together. After each of the church services has come to a close, everyone comes together to feast on turkey spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and pepper, and stuffed with almonds, rice, and pine nuts.

All around, bells are ringing and Christmas Carols are being sung in many different languages; and everywhere, people are wishing one another a Happy Christmas and blessing one another. Local children walk through the streets taking in the sights, and the general feeling is one of contentment and joy.

Now that you know a bit more about the way people living in the Holy Land celebrate the birth of Christ, perhaps you feel more connected to them, as Christian brothers and sisters. By purchasing a few gifts made by Bethlehem artisans this year, you can help these people to continue to share their traditions with other Christians from around the world.

Christians Caring for God’s Creation

As Christians, we are stewards of God’s creation – the planet we live on, the birds, animals and plants that share the Earth with us, and the air and water we depend on for life have been entrusted to our care. Now, more than ever, it is up to us as Christians to do all we can to help safeguard the resources God provided to sustain us. Here, we’ll take a look at some ways you can do your part.

Make Wise Choices

We’ve all hear the slogan “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle,” and sometimes it may seem as though public service announcements and environmental organizations go a little overboard. The sad truth is though, that God’s oceans are full of plastic, the lands He provided to people for farming have been covered in pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals; and the birds, fish, and animals He provided to sustain us are dying off at incredible rates, simply because people have stopped caring for the gifts God gave us.

The choices you make each day – when you purchase something, when you discard items, and when you use resources – all add up. Are you a good steward of God’s creation? Which businesses do you support, and what kind of entertainment do you choose? All of the choices you make, day in and day out, matter greatly.

Participate in Cleanup Efforts

By participating in cleanup efforts, whether that’s at a local park, along roadsides, or on a beach or other waterfront area, you can help to make a difference. God has blessed us with an abundance of natural resources. It is important to spend at least a small portion of our time showing that we care.

Teach Children the Importance of Good Stewardship

Children are eager to learn new things, so start off right, and teach them the importance of taking good care of what God has given them. Teach them to use resources properly, and set a good example. There are countless resources available for teaching kids to care for the environment.

How HolyLand-Gifts Makes a Difference

The gift items you purchase from us don’t arrive in excessive packaging, and they are made from sustainable natural resources. For example, the olive wood which most of our gifts are made from is sourced from branches trimmed from olive trees. Trimming these trees, some of which are thousands of years old, helps them to stay healthy and keep producing olives, which people in Bethlehem rely on for many of the products they use every day. Most of the gift items are unfinished, so the wood has a chance to take on a lovely patina as it ages – and so less chemical residue makes its way into the environment.

By choosing to give these gift items instead of meaningless plastic items, you are helping to ensure less garbage ends up polluting the planet, and you are helping artisans in the Holy Land to live more abundantly. Finally, you are giving unique gifts people will treasure. They are a connection to the natural resources God gave to humanity – and a little reminder that the simplest things in life are often some of the most meaningful.


Christians in the Holy Land

Holy Land Gifts supports Christian artists living in the Holy Land – you probably already know that much! What you might not know is that Christians, once thriving in the area commonly referred to as the Holy Land, are being uprooted. Those who remain are constantly under threat from others seeking to persecute them, and finding life-sustaining employment is a difficult endeavor. Despite what some officials say, Christians living in the Holy Land regularly face discrimination, which is why our support of this cottage industry is so important to their survival.

A Brief History of Christians in the Holy Land

As Christ was ultimately persecuted and put to death , so it seems that Christians living in the Holy Land have rarely enjoyed peace; in the year 66 AD, just 33 years after Jesus rose from the dead, the Jewish Rebellion ignited a fierce war with Rome, forcing Christians to flee. By the year 70 AD, Titus and his Roman army were in control; even the Jewish people had their temple destroyed, along with much of the rest of Jerusalem. Turmoil continued during the first centuries until the year 313, when the Edict of Milan put a stop to the persecution of Christians.

In the year 335, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher was dedicated, and four years later, in 339, the Church of the Nativity was established in Bethlehem. Between 362 and 365,the Emperor Julian promised to rebuild the ancient Jewish temple and re-establish paganism, but by 391, Emperor Theodosius outlawed paganism and made Christianity the Roman Empire’s official religion.

Turmoil and peace alternated with Christianity continuing to thrive until in 1009, Muslim Caliph Al Hakim destroyed many churches including the Church of the Holy Sepulcher during a massive campaign to persecute Christians. Eventually, the church was rebuilt, and as the centuries passed, power continued to shift.

Many Holy Land sites have been destinations for Jewish, Muslim, and Christian religious pilgrimages ever since Biblical times, which is why the area is so often fought over. People from all these major faiths visit the Holy Land to see and touch sites and symbols related to their faiths, which helps to deepen belief and allow them to connect more personally to the divine. The Holy Land is special to many people from all over the world, and while persecution of Christians does continue, many non-Christians and followers of Judaism and Islam do believe that Christianity should continue to have a presence in the area.

How You Can Help

Helping Christian families living in the Holy Land is very easy. By holding a church fundraiser or conducting a mission project, you can help to make life better for these dedicated artisans who continue to use ancient techniques to create beautiful and unique products that allow you to enjoy a personal connection with the land where Jesus was born and where he lived his life.

Finally, you can help Christians in the Holy Land by praying for their well-being and safety. These people, like us, are part of our Christian family, united by Christ.

Christian Rosaries: Important Tools for Meditation

Meditation is a wonderful way to relax your mind and focus on prayer. Christian rosaries are useful tools for meditation, and rosaries can be used by any Christian.

For a long time, Catholics were the only people to use Christian rosaries as tools for prayer and meditation. Today, people from many different Christian faith backgrounds use the rosary as a way to ground themselves physically, whether actually praying the prayers that traditionally go along with Christian rosaries, or whether simply using them as a reminder to focus on the act of praying itself.

The Value of Meditation

When you think about meditation, what kind of images come into your minds’ eye? Perhaps you envision a peaceful monk sitting quietly beneath a tree, breathing in and out as he communicates with God. Maybe you see an entire group of Christians holding hands and praying together in Jesus’ name, completely focused on their intention. Whatever you see, understand that meditation is not just a valuable way to communicate with the divine, it is also an act that is physically beneficial.

If you suffer from high stress, physical pain of any kind, or even from an inability to really focus on the prayers you want to say each day, meditating can help to alleviate mental and physical suffering, aid in relaxation and healing, and help you to focus on communicating with the Divine. Christian rosaries are tools that can help you to enjoy deeper meditation and receive the many benefits associated with it.

How to Use Christian Rosaries for Meditation

The rosary itself is simple, just a series of simple beads strung together with a central medallion and a cross at one end. Most people like the way a full-size rosary feels in their hands; however, there are smaller rosaries available, such as chaplets that fit around the wrist like a bracelet.

Whatever your preference, begin your meditative journey using the rosary by seeking a quiet place where you can relax and breathe deeply without any interference from outside sources. You can either sit quietly or walk along a path you know well as you meditate; various methods work for different people. Some like to listen to music while meditating, and others enjoy complete silence.

If you like, you can pray the prayers associated with the rosary. These include the Pater Noster (Our Father) and the Hail Mary. If you are like many people, and you prefer to use free-form prayers to express your feelings and desires to God, or even to repent for something you have done wrong, you can still use the rosary as a tool. Just identify various issues you want to talk with God about, and use each bead to help you focus on expressing yourself. If you find your mind wandering, move to a different bead or slowly run the rosary beads through your fingers, reminding yourself to stay grounded, and letting the physical feeling of the beads remind you that God is listening to your prayers.

End by giving thanks to God for listening. The more you use the rosary as a meditation tool, the more you will receive the benefits associated with meditating. If you need a rosary, you’ll find HolyLand-Gifts has a nice selection available.


Christian Gifts for Kids: How to Make them Special

Finding Christian gifts for kids is simple if you know where to look. Kids will enjoy memorable Christian gifts more when you add special personal touches.

Think back to the last time someone gave you a gift, and you’ll understand why adding special touches to Christian gifts for kids is so important. No matter what the gift you received was, it probably seemed a lot more meaningful when the one who gave it to you added special personal touches. Here, we’ll provide some ideas for adding even more meaning to Christian gifts for kids.

Start With a Great Gift

Everyone loves gifts, and with just a little thought, you can look at a group of items and select the one that will best suit the person you’re gifting. What makes a great gift though? Usually, it’s something completely unexpected – something out of the ordinary. It’s an item the receiver doesn’t have already, or it’s an item that replaces or upgrades an item the recipient already has. Some examples of great Christian gifts for kids include:

  • Jewelry for girls
  • Crosses for either gender
  • Rosaries, particularly at First Communion or Confirmation
  • Christmas Ornaments
  • Small Nativity sets kids can put in their rooms

Add a Story

Different items, even religious items, have different meanings to different people. If you have a personal story to tell about an item, you can write that story out and include it, or you can tell the story to the child and give him or her the gift when the time is right. For example, if you are thinking about presenting a child with a cross or a rosary because an item like that one has played a special role in your spiritual life, think about a way to explain the item’s significance to that child. Make sure you use age-appropriate language the child can understand.

If you like, you can add a book that talks about the item, or if you have always wanted to write a kids’ book, now is your chance to write a special book and illustrate it. It doesn’t have to be fancy – you can do it on your own PC, using your own printer, and crafting a special cover out of durable material. The more creative you are, the more exciting and personal the gift will be, and the more meaning it will have.

Package it Beautifully

When giving a gift, you might feel as if the gift itself is special enough, and this might just be true. In many cases though, packaging helps build excitement and adds a bit of festivity to the occasion. For simple Christian gifts for kids, consider the following:

  • Put little gifts like wooden cross necklaces or rosaries into a keepsake box. This not only helps add visual appeal, it helps keep the gift safe – even careful children can be hard on their belongings.
  • For Easter gifts, make a little Easter basket with your gift as the centerpiece.
  • For Christmas gifts, add a wooden Christmas ornament to the packaging, next to the bow. This is inexpensive, yet it adds a wonderfully meaningful touch. has many wonderful items that will appeal to children. For baptism, First Communion, and Confirmation gifts, as well as great gifts for other occasions, we offer quality and affordability.



Choosing Rosary Beads for Children

When selecting rosary beads for children, it is important to keep the child’s age and gender in mind. Children should be taught to care for their rosary beads.

There are many types of rosary beads for children, ranging from colorful plastic rosaries to wooden rosaries. There are even rosaries that glow in the dark. When selecting rosary beads for children, you should be sure to make your choice with care. While a very young child might appreciate a colorful rosary with big plastic beads, an older child will probably appreciate a nicer rosary that looks like the type parents and other adults have.

Plastic Rosaries

Very young children are attracted to bright colors, which is just one reason plastic rosaries can be a good choice for them. In addition, they can be very hard on delicate items, including rosaries with carefully crafted metal links. Plastic rosaries with plastic crucifixes and medals instead of metal ones are just right for babies and toddlers, particularly if the child still tends to put items in his or her mouth. These rosaries tend to be very sturdy, and they can be easily sanitized. You can even run them through the dishwasher to remove germs.

Plastic rosary beads for children made with different colored beads can also help youngsters learn how to say the rosary. Just be sure to check these rosaries for damage frequently, and repair or retire them if beads come loose so that they don’t become a choking hazard. Also, don’t leave very young children unattended with rosaries, unless those rosaries are too small to fit over their heads. As they are very sturdy and are designed not to break, they can be a strangulation hazard. If you keep rosaries around the house, keep them up and out of reach when they are not in use, both to prevent accidents and to help kids understand the need to handle religious items with reverence.

First Communion Rosaries

When a youngster receives his or her First Holy Communion, it’s a sign that he or she is growing up and growing in faith. This is a great time to take a step up from rosary beads for children to a set of rosary beads that the child can enjoy using as the years pass.

Girls and boys alike dress in white for their first communions, as a sign of purity. A white rosary is a customary first communion gift, and one that the child will treasure. Consider giving the gift of a mother of pearl rosary – this is made from natural mother of pearl shell, and will become more lustrous as time passes.

For a boy who might not appreciate the beauty of mother of pearl, consider replacing rosary beads for children with a set of rosary beads handcrafted from olivewood. This rosary is just as beautiful as its white mother of pearl counterpart, but has a much more masculine look and feel.

You’ll find mother of pearl rosaries and olivewood rosaries online, at These surprisingly affordable rosaries are handmade by holy land artisans, and make outstanding first communion gifts that anyone will appreciate.


Choosing Christian Gifts for Children

When it comes to Christian gifts for children, you may be at a complete loss for ideas. Children will appreciate these interesting Christian gifts suggestions.

When looking for Christian gifts for children, you might feel as though you are fighting an uphill battle. After all, many gifts for kids involve lots of plastic, odd cartoon characters, or noisy sound effects that will have parents wishing you would have just forgotten about the occasion at hand. Whether you’re looking for a meaningful children’s Christmas gift, a First Communion gift, or other Christian gifts for children, you’ll find that there are plenty of great choices available – especially if you search online.

Make it Meaningful

When selecting a gift for a child, spend some time thinking about what will be most meaningful to that child, and what you might be able to do to make a gift seem a bit more personal. Let’s face it – most kids spend more time thinking about candy and toys than they spend thinking about life’s deeper issues, and that’s normal. It’s part of being a child. So, don’t just grab the first thing you find and expect the child to enjoy it. Some ways to make Christian gifts for children seem more meaningful include:

  • Telling a story when giving the gift.
  • Enclosing a book that tells a story about the type of gift you’re giving.
  • Giving the child a gift he or she can wear.

Make it Sustainable

Last time you shopped, did you consider the amount of plastic and packaging that went into the items you shopped for? Religious leaders and political leaders are finally asking people to make sustainable choices in all areas of their lives, and that ought to extend to the gifts we give others, particularly children. Plastic is not at all special, and though kids love brightly colored items, these things soon lose their charm, particularly if they are obviously childish; young people do grow up, after all!

Some of the nicest sustainable gifts you can give children include items made from wood, glass, ceramic, or even mother of pearl shell. Wood and mother of pearl have glass items at a disadvantage, since they are more durable. If you give a child the gift of a wooden cross, for example, that same cross can stay with that child for a lifetime.

Try packaging your gifts in a way that’s sustainable, too. For example, use simple paper and raffia instead of plastic bows, or pack your gifts in a basket that can be re-used.

Make it Special

The best Christian gifts for children are those that are special and unique. Kids often rapidly lose interest in toys, but they treasure little things that remind them of special occasions and of people who give these things to them. No matter what the occasion, a gift that’s different from the items everyone else has is sure to hold special appeal.

At HolyLand-Gifts, you’ll find many wonderful Christian gifts that children will love. Crosses, rosaries, and even little keepsake boxes to hold special items are sure to be appreciated. Best of all, all these items are sustainable, and all come with a story to tell.


Choosing a Unique Catholic Wedding Gift

Selecting a Catholic wedding gift doesn’t have to be difficult. Here, we share some quick, simple tips for choosing a wedding gift for a Catholic couple.

You’ve received an invitation to a Catholic wedding, and you’re wondering what might make a nice Catholic wedding gift. While traditional wedding gifts such as household goods and money are always appreciated, you’ll make the couple feel just a bit more special if you take the time to select a unique Catholic wedding gift they can enjoy for a lifetime.

Keep it Simple

When choosing a wedding gift that’s not on the registry, keep it simple. While you do want to select something that is unique, you also want to ensure that your gift will be appreciated and cherished. Use the couple’s sense of taste as a guideline, and try to avoid purchasing anything that follows a current fad. A simple, timeless gift will be appreciated when it is received, and it will be enjoyed as time passes, too.

You Don’t Have to Break the Bank

While some people seem to try to outdo themselves when giving gifts, it’s true that sometimes the least expensive gifts are the ones that are cherished most. What often matters more than the gift itself is the special meaning that’s attached to it. And, while it may seem tempting to say “it’s the thought that counts,” it’s great to come up with a unique gift that shows your level of thoughtfulness and caring.

Think about heirlooms you see as priceless, and then think about their relative worth in dollars and cents; while some things may be valuable simply because they are old, those things may not have cost much at the time they were purchased. Before you spend a fortune on a gift that may or may not be appreciated, spend a little time searching for a thoughtful gift with timeless appeal.

Catholic Wedding Gift Ideas

Keeping simplicity and cost-effectiveness in mind, we’ve come up with a few great wedding gift ideas for Catholics:

  • Nativity Sets and Christmas Ornaments – Most newlyweds come into their marriages without much “stuff,” and what they do have might not always be the best. A beautiful olivewood nativity set has timeless appeal, and is certain to be appreciated. It blends in well with any décor, and it is much less fragile – and less expensive than – many other types of nativity scenes. Christmas ornaments are also fantastic wedding gifts for Catholics. Whether you give lots of different ornaments or just a few special ones, they are sure to be a surprise, and they’re certain to bring happiness along with them.
  • Crosses – Just like other Christians, Catholics like to display crosses in their homes as symbols of their faith. A simple wooden cross makes a great gift on its own, and is a nice addition to any collection of household goods you may have decided on from a gift registry.
  • Rosaries – Not all Catholics pray the rosary on a regular basis, but giving a couple a gift of matching rosaries says you care not just about their physical well-being, but that you care about their spiritual well-being, too. If you have the opportunity to meet with a Catholic priest, ask him to bless the rosaries, and be sure to tell the couple that they have been blessed.

For a wonderful selection of Catholic wedding gifts at affordable prices, including these items and many others, visit


Choosing a Rosary Beads Necklace for Men

The rosary beads necklace for men is a fantastic gift that is certain to be well-received. Here are some guidelines for selecting rosary beads as a necklace for men.

Some men are notoriously tough to shop for, which is one reason a rosary beads necklace for men makes a great gift. Following, we’ll discuss some various rosary necklace styles along with various pros and cons associated with each type of rosary beads necklace for men.

Stainless Steel Rosary Beads

While stainless steel rosary beads tend to impart a nice streamlined look, they’re also quite trendy, which means that when you give this type of rosary beads necklace for men, it may not be a gift the recipient is able to wear for more than a few seasons. In addition, these rosary beads tend to become very hot when exposed to sunlight.

Plastic Rosary Beads

Many churches and non-profit groups give away handmade plastic rosaries for free. Sometimes these rosaries are strung on polyester thread, and sometimes they’re made to be more durable, with metal chain links between the beads. Some of these rosary beads are one-hundred percent plastic, making them a good choice for small children who might damage a more valuable set of rosary beads; some have metal crosses that give them a slightly more upscale look. As a rosary beads necklace for men, plastic rosary beads can be a good choice for someone who cannot have metal items; if a friend or loved one is in prison, then plastic rosary beads may be the only kind this recipient can have.

Natural Stone Rosary Beads

Rosary beads made with natural stones often have a very sparkly look, which makes them a favorite with women. Crystal is a popular stone for rosary making, though some rosaries are made with more valuable gemstones like garnets, sapphires, or rubies. Some rosaries are even made of diamonds; these cost about the same as a new car. While natural stone rosary beads can be a nice choice as a rosary beads necklace for men, price can be an issue. If you do want to give a man a rosary made with gemstones, be sure to choose one that looks masculine.

Shell Rosary Beads

Natural shells are often used to make rosaries. One of the nicest types on the market is mother of pearl, which is an iridescent white color. When worn, these rosaries feel smooth against the skin, and they don’t become terribly hot. The natural shell these rosaries are made from lasts for many years, meaning that even though these rosaries are inexpensive, they can become treasured family heirlooms.

Wooden Rosary Beads

Wooden rosary beads are very popular with men. These rosaries have a distinctly masculine look, and so long as they are made with a quality wood, such as olivewood, they only improve with age and can last a man a lifetime. While some wooden rosary beads are very expensive, others are available at surprisingly low prices. Of all the various types of rosaries for men, these are among the best – and they make a fantastic gift for all occasions.




Choosing a Catholic Confirmation Gift

Selecting the right Catholic Confirmation gift doesn’t have to be a chore. Here, we’ll provide some tips for finding a great gift for Catholic Confirmation.

Whether you are a friend or family member of a Confirmand, the Catholic confirmation gift you select shows that you support the newly confirmed member of the Catholic faith in his or her decision to become a fully anointed member of the church. A Catholic Confirmation gift should be meaningful, and it ought to be long-lasting. Here are some tips for choosing a Confirmation gift that will be appreciated for many years to come.

Select an Appropriate Gift

Unlike a casual gift-giving festivity such as a birthday, Confirmation is a very special occasion. The sacrament of Confirmation is only conferred upon a Catholic once in his or her life, so the gift you give should be an appropriate one. Christian gifts are the standard here, and gifts specifically celebrating the Catholic faith are always well-received by Confirmands. Some items to avoid giving as Confirmation gifts include:

  • Secular books or music
  • Toys or games
  • Personal care items
  • Candies or other sweets
  • Non-religious jewelry items

These items are just a few examples of gifts that might be perfectly appropriate at other times, but which do not make appropriate gifts for Confirmation.

An appropriate Catholic Confirmation gift is one that the recipient can use to increase his or her faith. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Bibles and other religious books
  • Christian music
  • Mass cards
  • Religious jewelry items
  • Rosaries
  • Religious sculptures

Just like gifts you choose for other occasions, you want to be sure that the Catholic Confirmation gift you select is one that the recipient will like. For example, a young girl who is being confirmed would probably like a gleaming white mother of pearl rosary better than a rustic rosary made of olive wood, and a young boy being confirmed would probably like the wooden rosary better than the one made with mother of pearl.

When giving an adult Confirmand a Catholic Confirmation gift, keep in mind that he or she probably already has plenty of religious reading material, and his or her taste in music might be a lot different from yours. In addition, he or she may already have a very special rosary. Look for something unique and meaningful, and think about ways to avoid giving gifts that are too typical – you want to ensure you give a gift that is one of a kind. A sculpture depicting the Holy Family, Praying Hands, or even the Head of Christ might make a wonderful gift for an adult, even though these items are things a younger Confirmand might want to put away until later.

At, you can find a wonderful selection of gifts that are perfectly appropriate for those receiving the sacrament of Confirmation, including members of both genders, and people of all ages. Hand-made rosaries and crosses of various types make excellent Confirmation gifts, as do cross necklaces. Spend just a few minutes browsing, and you’ll almost certainly find a gift that’s just right for the Confirmand in your life.






Ash Wednesday: A Quick Guide for New Believers

Many people who grew up in Christian homes know what Ash Wednesday is all about, whether they elect to celebrate it or not. For many who are new to Christianity or who grew up in Christian faiths that do not typically celebrate this, the first day of the Lenten season, we have a quick guide to share. Here, we’ll talk a little bit about the History of Ash Wednesday, plus we’ll talk about some ways today’s Christians celebrate the first day of Lent.

The History of Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the liturgical season known as Lent – the forty-three days before Easter. It has long been known as a day of repentance, and as many biblical verses discuss using ashes to show repentance or to express mourning, people have been expressing sorrow for their sins or faults for millennia in this way. Some bible verses that discuss the use of ashes to express penitence include:

  • Job 42:3-6 – I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. The other eye wandereth of its own accord. Wherefore I aabhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.
  • Jeremiah 6:26 – Oh daughter of my people, gird on sackcloth, roll in the ashes.
  • Daniel 9:3 – I turned to the Lord God, pleading in earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes.
  • Maccabees 3:47 – That day they fasted and wore sackcloth; they sprinkled ashes on their heads and tore their clothes

These are just some examples from ancient history. Christians first started celebrating Ash Wednesday around the year 960; before that, ashes were placed on the foreheads of people who were entering a religious group known as the Order of Penitents. It was during the twelfth century that people began to use palm branches from the previous year’s Palm Sunday to generate the ashes used during the Ash Wednesday ritual.

By the middle ages, a new emphasis was placed on the passion and death of Christ, and Lent came to be viewed as a time to acknowledge the sins that led to Christ’s passion and his death on the cross. As faithful Christians lined up to receive ashes, they heard a version of the same statement clergy make as they mark today’s faithful: “Remember man, that thou art dust; to dust you shall return.

Celebrating Ash Wednesday

Today, as Christians receive ashes on their foreheads, they may hear a slightly different version of the traditional call to repentence. Turn away from sin, and return to the gospel. Some denominations use both statements as the ashes are applied.

Many Christian denominations celebrate Ash Wednesday. These include:

  • Anglican Communion, Anglican Catholic, and Traditional Anglican Communion

  • Baptist

  • Catholic

  • Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

  • Church of God

  • Free Churches (practices vary from one to the next)

  • Lutheran

  • Methodist

  • Moravian Church

  • Reformed Churches, including Christian Churches, Presbyterian Churches, United Church of Christ

  • Wesleyan Church

This is by no means a complete list, and despite variations in tradition and liturgy, it’s amazing to consider how so many different Christians come together on this day each year to profess sorrow for wrongdoing and to show their commitment to Christian life.

If you wish to celebrate Ash Wednesday and your particular church does not hold a celebration, look for a church within your community that does, or look for an ecumenical service at which many different faith groups come together to share Ash Wednesday at one central location. Once marked with the ashes, you may leave them on your forehead until they wear off, as tradition dictates. When people ask what’s on your forehead, you get the opportunity to share your faith with them.

We hope you enjoyed this quick tutorial on the history and traditions surrounding Ash Wednesday. Whether you celebrate or not, remember this day marks the beginning of Jesus’ 40 day stint in the desert, when he went to fast and pray. Consider making some small sacrifice of your own during the Lenten season – you’ll be amazed at what a little extra focus on faith can do for your spiritual life.



Celebrating Holy Thursday

Christians everywhere celebrate Holy Thursday or Mandy Thursday, as it is often known, each year just before Easter. This important feast commemorates the Last Supper as described in the Gospels. If you’ve been a Christian for a long time, you might know quite a bit about Holy Thursday. If, on the other hand, you’re brand new to Christianity, you may wish you knew more about the feast’s history and traditions. Here, we’ll take a look at the history of Maundy Thursday, plus we’ll talk about the way today’s Christians typically celebrate this holy day.

What is Maundy Thursday?

As the Anglican Church of England calls this holy day, Maundy Thursday is simply the Thursday before Easter. Most scholars conclude that the word “Maundy” comes from a combination of a word derived through old French, English, and Latin including mande and mandatum. You’ll find the root word “mandatum” in the Latin text describing a statement Jesus made at the Last Supper: “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos,” which translates to a statement in English which you might be familiar with: “A new commandment I give to you: Love One Another, as I have loved you.” It is from the words of this, the Great Commandment, that we get the word “Maundy.”

The ceremonies Christians practice on Holy Thursday are inspire by events that took place during that Last Supper, when Jesus celebrated the Passover feast with his disciples. The washing of feet, for instance, is one practice many Christians still engage in, and it has been popular since about the fourth century. In the early days, clergy would simply wash one another’s feet, or an abbot would wash the feet of the monks he led. Today, many Christians wash one another’s feet on Maundy Thursday. Sometimes, church leaders will wash the feet of twelve men who represent disciples. Other celebrations involve entire congregations.

The second ceremony that takes place in most churches on Maundy Thursday has been taking place since the very beginning of Christianity – that is the celebration of the Eucharist, which commemorates Jesus’s words commanding the disciples to take bread and wine in memory of his sacrifice. Though Catholics and many other faithful people celebrate the Eucharist at almost every gathering, some Protestant denominations celebrate it rarely, with Maundy Thursday being one day communion is taken. We’ll cover various Christian beliefs surrounding the Holy Eucharist or Communion in another entry, since these beliefs vary widely from one denomination to the next.

Baptisms for new believers often take place on Mandy Thursday, and confessions or reconciliation services often take place on this day as well. In some communities, members of various churches gather to celebrate Maundy Thursday together, with a large ceremonial foot washing, bible readings, and music. At the conclusion of this celebration, the church is often darkened in preparation for Good Friday, and many people plan to return the following day to commemorate the day of Jesus’ passion and death.

No matter how you celebrate, you’ll find that some common threads tie Christians from various denominations to one another, and you may come to a greater appreciation of the fact that Jesus was once a man who ate, drank, and participated in daily life just as we do. As you come to understand more about Maundy Thursday, work to grow in your faith and consider sharing it with others,




Catholic Rosary Beads: The Traditional Mysteries Decoded

Many Christians have questions about Catholic rosary beads. Here, we’ll look at the mysteries Catholic faithful meditate on when using rosary beads.

You may have seen Catholic rosary beads at a Christian gifts shop, or perhaps you have seen them in the hands of a friend. If you’re Catholic, you probably know quite a bit about rosary beads, and perhaps you even use them; if not, you probably wonder what those Catholic rosary beads are for. You’ll find valuable information about Roman Catholic rosaries in other articles; here, we’ll just focus on the traditional meditations Catholics use when praying the rosary. There is a fourth set of mysteries which we’ll look at in another article on Catholic Rosary beads; these are the Luminous mysteries.

The Joyful Mysteries

This set of rosary mysteries comes mostly from Saint Luke’s Gospel, which can be found in the New Testament. If you know the Christmas story, and if you know a bit about Jesus’ childhood, then you’ll probably find that these occasions are familiar. For these and the rest of the mysteries we’ll explore, each mystery counts as a decade on a set of Catholic rosary beads.

  • The Annunciation – An angel visits Mary to tell her that Jesus is to be born, and that she has been chosen to carry him in her womb.
  • The Visitation – Mary visits her cousin, Elizabeth. The baby in Elizabeth’s womb ( whom we meet later as St. John the Baptist) leaps for joy, recognizing Jesus’ presence even from afar.
  • The Nativity – Jesus is born
  • The Presentation in the Temple – Jesus is brought to the temple for presentation to God, in accordance with Jewish law.
  • Jesus is Found in the Temple – Jesus was thought to be lost; when found, he is preaching to the high priests in the temple.

The Sorrowful Mysteries

Even Jesus experienced trouble during his lifetime; he experienced more pain than most of us could ever imagine when he suffered and died. The sorrowful mysteries rosary commemorate his acts of redemption.

  • The Agony in the Garden – Jesus prays in anguish, knowing what is about to happen to him. As he prays in the Garden of Olives, he sweats blood.
  • The Scourging at the Pillar – Jesus is beaten mercilessly.
  • The Crowning of Thorns – Jesus is draped in a purple robe, crowned with thorns, and mocked.
  • Jesus Carries his Cross – Battered and bruised, Jesus is forced to carry his cross to Golgatha. He falls along the way.
  • The Crucifixion – Jesus dies for the sins of mankind.

The Glorious Mysteries

This series of rosary mysteries celebrates Jesus’ most triumphant moments.

  • The Resurrection – Jesus rises from the dead.
  • The Ascension – Jesus ascends into heaven.
  • The Descent of the Holy Spirit – The Holy Spirit visits Mary and the apostles at the first Pentecost.
  • The Assumption – Mary is brought to heaven.
  • Mary’s Coronation – Mary is crowned as Queen of Heaven

You can find Catholic rosary beads made from gleaming mother of pearl or precious Holy Land olive wood at, along with many other Catholic and Christian items. We hope you enjoyed this informational article; you’ll find even more information when you visit our blog.



Celebrate Christmas with an Olivewood Naitivity

Olivewood naitivity sets are the perfect addition to your home’s holiday décor. Made with Holy Land olivewood, these naitivity scenes are simple, yet beautiful.

When it comes to celebrating Christmas each year, the simple beauty of the olivewood naitivity will be a welcome addition to your décor, no matter what your decorating style. Here, we’ll share a few tips for setting up a nativity scene.

Choose the Right Size

If you don’t yet own a nativity scene, now is the perfect time to start deciding which type will work best for the space you have available. Many people enjoy setting up a variety of nativity sets in different areas, but for now, let’s just focus on picking one. Measure the space you have available, and choose a set that will fit there without looking too crowded. If you have just a tiny area available, look for an all-in-one olivewood naitivity. It’s handcrafted beauty will fit well within a simple setting, and you’ll appreciate how easy it is to store, too. If you have unlimited space available, pick an olivewood naitivity set you can set up in a way that reminds you of the journey the Holy Family made as they travelled to Bethlehem.

Add Lights, or Keep it Simple

One of the nicest things about a very simple nativity set is that you can either keep it that way, or you can add lights, greenery, and other decorative items. The first nativity sets people made were actually dioramas, so you can keep the tradition alive by making a special backdrop if you like. Use white lights to represent stars, or add a festive touch with colored lights.

Some people like to display dramatically carved wooden nativity sets by candlelight; if you think this idea might work well for you, be sure to think safety, since these nativity scenes are made from natural wood that will scorch if set too close to an open flame. Use candles enclosed in glass to prevent accidental fires, and be sure that you have incorporated plenty of clearance between flames and any items above them. Even the best-quality candles emit smoke that can damage items placed too close to the flame.

A final word about candles – remember not to leave them burning when you can’t be there to supervise. If placing your nativity set within reach of children, battery-operated LED candles can be used in place of the real thing.

Position Figures in a Meaningful Way

Olivewood naitivity sets tend to be durable, which makes them ideal for busy families. If you have children, allow them to help decide where to place the figures that make up the nativity, discussing the importance of each character as you do so. Put the baby Jesus in the middle, and place Mary and Joseph nearby. Try reading the nativity story as you set up the nativity scene in your home, and use your imagination. Just be sure to keep Jesus, Mary, and Joseph within easy view since they are, after all, the central players in the scene.

Be sure to check the selection of nativity scenes available at HolyLand-Gifts. We carry a wide variety of naitivities, along with many other meaningful items you’ll enjoy displaying in your home.




Catholic Gift Ideas for All Occasions

When attempting to come up with Catholic gift ideas, keep the recipient’s taste in mind. Here are some gift ideas for Catholic occasions of all types.

When working to come up with Catholic gift ideas, it’s important that you keep the recipient’s age, gender, and personal sense of taste in mind. It is also vital that you look for items designed to inspire virtue and strengthen the recipient’s sense of faith, no matter what the occasion. Here, we’ll share some great Catholic gift ideas, along with a few ideas for presenting those gifts in a lovely, personalized way.

Baptism Gifts

Almost all Christians recognize the importance of Baptism, and it’s no different for Catholics. While most Catholics are baptized shortly after birth, many receive baptism as children, and some as adults who are completely new to Christianity. Bibles, medals depicting various saints (particularly those the person is named after,) crosses, and crucifixes make fantastic Baptism gifts.

First Holy Communion Gifts

These gifts tend to be white, to signify purity. A white rosary made with mother of pearl shell is an excellent gift the recipient is sure to enjoy for a lifetime. Package the rosary in a special bag or box to ensure it is kept safe from tangles or accidental breakage. Bibles, prayer books, and other religious gifts are also appropriate.

Confirmation Gifts

Catholic Confirmation Gifts should be spiritual in nature. Some Catholic gift ideas for Confirmation include Roman Catholic rosaries, crosses, and medals or holy cards depicting the person’s chosen confirmation name saint. Books and Christian music CD’s are also very nice gifts. Many Catholics are confirmed around Easter, so consider making a special Easter basket containing several small items, particularly if you aren’t sure what the recipient might like most.

Wedding Gifts

While Catholic newlyweds certainly welcome all sorts of household goods and other traditional items, it doesn’t hurt to add a little touch of spirituality to make the occasion even more special. Some Catholic gift ideas for weddings include religious artwork such as statues, sculptures, and paintings. Crosses are also very popular, and even Nativity sets can be a unique gift that people just beginning their lives together will certainly appreciate.

Christmas Gifts

Just like other Christians, Catholics love to celebrate Christmas, often blending secular traditions with religious traditions. Catholic gift ideas for Christmas include large items such as Nativity sets, and smaller items, such as Christmas ornaments depicting traditional religious scenes. Look for items that are unique instead of those mass-produced in factories, and you’ll be giving a gift that is certain to be treasured for many years to come.

You’ll find a spectacular array of gifts for Catholics at All the items there are unique, and each has been carefully selected for its beauty, durability, and value. Whether you’re looking for a Catholic wedding gift, a Confirmation gift, a First Communion gift, or a special one-of-a-kind Christmas gift, you’ll be sure to enjoy the selection and prices available here.

Catholic Confirmation Gifts for Adults

Catholic Confirmation gifts for children are fairly easy to find. When adults receive the Catholic Sacrament of Confirmation, different gifts are appropriate.

When looking for Catholic Confirmation gifts, much of what you find in stores and online may seem more appropriate for children than for adults. The fact is, many adults, including those who have been Catholic for some time and many who are new to the Catholic faith, are confirmed each year. Here, we share several great ideas concerning Catholic Confirmation gifts for adults.

Understanding Confirmation

Confirmation is one of the seven Sacraments which can be conferred upon members of the Catholic faith. This sacrament calls the recipient to become an active part of the church community, and to become a witness to his or her faith. It is seen as a sign that the Confirmand is being united more firmly to Jesus Christ, and as a method for increasing the gifts of the Holy Spirit. For this reason, some gifts that might be appropriate for other holidays and celebrations are really not quite right for presenting to an adult who is receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation.

People who receive the Sacrament of Confirmation are called to spread their faith and to defend it. They are also called to act as Christians and never to be ashamed of the cross of Christ. For this reason, the best Catholic Confirmation gifts are those that remind the newly confirmed person of his or her faith.

Ideas for Catholic Confirmation Gifts

Some people are notoriously difficult to shop for, and that problem might seem to be compounded even further by the need to find a special gift that isn’t just appropriate, but that the recipient will truly appreciate. The good news is that it is possible to find outstanding Catholic Confirmation gifts that are both unique and affordable. Here are some top ideas you may find useful:

  • Rosaries – Catholics of all ages appreciate rosaries, and presenting someone with a special rosary says that you truly do care about the recipient, and that you care deeply about that person’s spiritual life.
  • Crosses – As the call to deeper faith calls recipients of the Sacrament of Confirmation to act as witnesses of Christ, a cross that can be hung on the wall makes an excellent gift. One of the nicest crosses you can give a newly confirmed Catholic is a cross with a dove positioned over the top. Since the dove is used as a symbol that represents the Holy Spirit, this type of cross is particularly meaningful to those receiving confirmation.
  • Cross Necklaces – The gift of jewelry is intensely personal, and people love to receive things they can wear. You can find a wonderful variety of cross necklaces in various configurations anyone will appreciate, and many are available at surprisingly low prices.

For a great selection of Confirmation gifts, visit, and spend just a few minutes browsing. You’ll find rosaries, crosses, jewelry, and other items handcrafted by Christian artisans from Bethlehem, and you’ll love knowing that a portion of the proceeds go straight to the artisans, so they can support their families and live their faith.


Bethlehem Olivewood Gifts Last a Lifetime

Gifts made with Bethlehem olivewood take on a rich patina that deepens with each passing year. Best of all, Olivewood from Bethlehem is a renewable resource.

Gifts made with Bethlehem olivewood are very beautiful to begin with, but did you know that as olive wood ages, it starts to take on an even more dramatic appearance? While some gifts are destined to end up being donated to charity, re-gifted, or simply forgotten about in a box filled with clutter, gifts of Bethlehem olivewood are cherished for a lifetime – maybe because they look better with each passing year. Here, we’ll take a quick look at olive wood, and provide you with a brief overview of its properties, so you understand exactly where it comes from, how it is produced, and more.

Bethlehem Olivewood: A Renewable Resource

Beautiful gifts made with exotic woods are getting harder to come by, partly because woods sourced from rainforests are now scarce, with some trees teetering on the brink of extinction. So, why isn’t olive wood at risk? The answer lies at the heart of the olive tree itself. Not only is its root system nearly indestructible, allowing trees that have been cut down or even burned to the ground to completely regenerate themselves, the trees stay healthier when they are vigorously pruned.

Gifts made with olive wood from Bethlehem are made with wood sourced from branches that are trimmed away from the trees each year. The same trees artisans use to renew their craft wood supply are the trees they often rely on for olive oil and olives for their families to cook with and eat, and long-burning wood for small fires.

Olivewood’s Properties

If you look at a photo of Bethlehem olivewood trees, you’ll notice that the trees’ limbs are knotted and twisted. These trees are actually evergreen shrubs. They are hardy, drought-resistant, disease-resistant, and fire-resistant. The oldest olive trees in the world are believed to be more than two thousand years old, and it is believed that so long as an olive tree is pruned regularly and is properly cared for, it can live indefinitely.

The wood is very hard, with tightly packed grains. Usually a light yellow to greyish-green color, it possesses dark veins that run through it. No two trees are exactly alike, and no two pieces of art made from Bethlehem olivewood are alike, either. We like to say that just as God made each person with unique fingerprints, he created each olivewood tree to be unique, too.

You’ll find a wonderful array of handcrafted gifts made with olivewood from Bethlehem at HolyLand-Gifts. You may find yourself feeling a bit surprised about the low prices you find there, particularly as each item is made by hand, and as each is as unique as the olive trees the wood they’re made from are. Whether you’re looking for a Christian gift for a friend or family member, or just something nice for your home, you’ll be pleased with our selection and our prices.




A History of the Nativity Scene

A common scene throughout American homes and towns during the Christmas season is the nativity scene, or crèche. Many families have a small nativity inside their home, while others may have a larger, more elaborate scene in their yard. Some churches may even have a live nativity with real people and animals. Maybe surprisingly, this reflects back on the original nativity scenes, begun 800 years ago.

The first nativity scene originated with St. Francis of Assisi in 1223 and was actually a live nativity scene. St. Francis placed his actors and animals in a cave in hopes that this would help to focus the people of the town on the true meaning of the holiday. It was a huge hit, and soon live nativities could be seen throughout the Roman Empire each Christmas season.

For the next century, live nativities were found in churches during this time of the year, but practicality eventually won out. Most live nativities were replaced with carved nativities or other art forms. This is what we most commonly think of today when someone mentions a nativity.

Although we Americans often picture the nativity looking a certain way—manger, wise men, donkeys, sheep, and maybe some camels—different cultures actually have very different nativity scenes, although all contain baby Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Oriental crèches often have a domed manger and rarely have animals. French nativities are likely to have a plethora of townsfolk among the shepherds. And many cultures keep the wise men out of the nativity scene until after Christmas has passed. After Christmas the wise men then enter the picture—a more historically accurate representation of the nativity.

Unfortunately, this beautiful tradition has seen some controversy in recent decades after hundreds of years of being accepted and embraced. Schools and cities have now banned nativities in public areas in the name of separation of church and state. School “holiday” or “winter” band and choir concerts must contain an equal amount of secular songs to balance out the overtly religious Christmas carols. However, Menorahs or Islamic crescents are often allowed in schools and other public places because of their cultural (not just religious) importance, but nativities are seen as purely religious, and rightly so. From its very beginning, the nativity scene was meant to point people to Jesus and the real meaning of Christmas. May it continue to do so today.


A Cross Necklace for Children and Other Great Christian Gifts

A Cross Necklace for Children and Other Great Christian Gifts

When looking for Christian gifts, a cross necklace for children makes a great choice. Children love wearing a cross necklace and will appreciate the gift.

A cross necklace for children makes a great Christian gift for just about any occasion. Here, we’ll share some insight for choosing cross necklaces, plus we’ll share some other Christian gift ideas. Whether you are choosing a cross necklace for children, or looking for some other kind of Christian gift, you’ll appreciate these helpful tips.

Where It’s Made Matters

All too often, items including the cross necklace for children are made by children who are forced to work in filthy factories. Unfortunately, children are exploited in many countries where inexpensive jewelry is made, partly because their tiny hands can work intricate knots, and partly because of a lack of laws against child labor.

While there are many countries that turn a blind eye to child labor, some of the worst offenders are listed here:

  • China
  • India
  • Vietnam
  • Brazil
  • Indonesia
  • Philippines
  • Pakistan
  • Mexico
  • South America
  • North Korea

In countries like these, children are forced to work for little pay, and they are also exploited in other ways. When selecting a cross necklace for children or some other type of inexpensive Christian gift, try your best to ensure it is not made by child laborers who are essentially slaves.

What It’s Made from Counts

Children have sensitive skin, and they are also rough on personal items. When choosing a cross for children, try to find one that is not made with base metals, and look for one that is sturdy. Crosses made from olive wood or mother of pearl look attractive, feel comfortable next to the skin, and improve as time passes. In the event one of these cross pendants breaks, it is easily replaced at an affordable price, and no plastic waste ends up in the garbage.

Many other interesting Christian gifts are made from olivewood and mother of pearl. Some favorites include Christmas ornaments, rosaries, and even carved nativity sets.

Where to Get a Wonderful Cross Necklace for Children

Now that you know a bit more about how many types of inexpensive jewelry is made, you may wonder where to look for children’s cross necklaces and other affordable religious gifts. After all, if it’s not made in a huge, nameless factory, it’s made by a fairly paid artisan, and often, items made by skilled artisans are prohibitively expensive – at least, that’s what many people have been led to believe.

The truth is that skilled artisans in Bethlehem spend their days making beautiful Christian gifts, including cross pendants for children, Christmas ornaments, and many other items. They make these things by hand, using old-fashioned tools that have been passed down from one generation to the next. These artisans use natural olive wood from trees in the Holy Land to carve some items, while others are carved from beautiful, iridescent mother of pearl. While each gift is unique, each is also remarkably inexpensive.

To view these gifts, just spend a few moments visiting You can see photos of the artisans at work, plus you can learn more about the gift items and the materials used to make them. See? It really is possible to find kids’ cross necklaces and other great fair-trade Christian gifts at fair prices.



A Brief History of Christmas Ornaments

What would Christmas be without the Christmas tree? And what would the Christmas tree be without the Christmas tree ornaments? Arguably, that blessed tree decorating time is the best part of the Christmas celebration.

In the beginning … we all know the story, right? In the beginning, there was Adam and Eve. Well, this is also how the Christmas ornament’s story begins. In Western Germany, folks used to set up what they called “paradise trees” in their homes on December 24th, the feast day of Adam and Eve. Having no idea of the tradition they were building, they used to hang apples and wafers on their paradise trees. In later years, people hung shaped cookies instead of wafers. Many people added candles to their paradise trees.

These German folks also used to set up Christmas “pyramids” in their homes, triangular wooden shapes that displayed Christmas decorations. They decorated these with evergreens, candles, and you guessed it—a star on top. (It may have looked a bit like our Christmas tree grotto olive wood nativity set.)

Eventually, these two traditions merged into one—the Christmas tree. And those first Christmas trees were decorated with Christmas ornaments.

The Christmas tree tradition traveled to America via German immigrants in the 1700s. Yet people didn’t start buying Christmas ornaments in stores until the 1870s. So, for more than 150 years, Christmas ornaments were found or made at home.

So, what did these creative folks use for Christmas ornaments? A simpler question might be, what didn’t they use?

True to the earlier tradition, people continued to hang apples. Some people hung whole apples. Others strung together dried slices. Others hollowed out oranges and filled them with candy. Some hung peaches, cranberries, or crabapples. Some fashioned wire into the shape of a monkey and threaded raisins onto the wire. Those who could afford the more luxurious fruits hung cherries, plums, peaches, and strawberries.

Of course, there’s more to Christmas ornaments than fruit. Some people used potatoes. Others used dried red peppers. Many used nuts: peanuts, walnuts, chestnuts, or hickory nuts. Some artistic types painted gourds gold or wrapped them in foil. Some decorated egg shells. Some hung pretzels and doughnuts. Others painted oyster shells. (Speaking of which, have you seen our gorgeous mother of pearl jewelry?)

The Christmas tree made its debut at the White House in 1856. Popcorn came onto the scene in the 1860s. Some adventurous folks died their popcorn red and green.

Christmas ornaments first appeared on American store shelves in the 1870s. These were made of mica, cardboard, blown glass, molded wax, and stuffed satin.

The English trees across the pond were also becoming more popular at this time. These were decorated with toys, gifts, candles, candies, and cakes.

Missionaries brought the Christmas ornament tradition to China and Japan, where the trees were decorated with intricate paper designs.

Fake icicles followed in the 1880s. The early fake icicles were made via the same process that put glitter on military uniforms. By the 1890s, one could buy colored candy beads sold by the yard. Also by 1890, F.W. Woolworth was selling $25 million worth of Christmas ornaments per year. It was also around this time that strings of electric lights came on the scene.

Good Friday: Commemorating the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ

Christians all over the world celebrate Good Friday, commemorating the day Jesus was put to death on a cross. While those who were raised in Christian homes tend to have a good understanding of what this day is about, new Christians and those considering Christianity often have questions. Here, we’ll take a quick look at the history of Good Friday, plus we’ll talk about how Christians celebrate this feast today.

What is Good Friday?

Good Friday is a day used for the commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, beginning with his arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, and culminating with his death on the cross. Good Friday is the culmination of Holy Week, and always takes place on the Friday before Easter.

Based on details from the Canonical Gospels, Jesus was likely to have been crucified on a Friday, in the year AD 33 or AD 34. When you read accounts of the crucifixion in the bible, you’ll find reference to the sky darkening, or a “moon of blood.” Using an astronomical approach, historians point to an eclipse that took place on Friday, April 3, AD 33 as the most likely historic date for Jesus’ crucifixion to have taken place.
The bible relates various accounts of events leading up to Good Friday, and of events that took place on that day itself. The passion begins with Judas betraying Jesus with a kiss on the cheek in the Garden of Gethsemane, and with Peter fulfilling the prophecy Jesus made at the Last Supper the prior evening: “This very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.”

Jesus was brought before the high priest and the Sanhedrin to be interrogated as to whether he was the Son of God, and in the morning, Pontius Pilate, the governor of Rome, said Jesus ought to be whipped and released for any wrongdoing, though he and King Herod could not find fault. The crowd assembled ultimately demand that Jesus should be crucified. Though Pilate washed his hands of the matter and continued to state he could find no fault with Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

After being crowned with thorns and scourged viciously, then carrying his own cross through the streets, enduring jeers along the way, Jesus was crucified at Golgotha, or the “Place of the Skull.” At the end of the day, a Roman soldier pierced his side to ensure he was dead before allowing his followers to remove his body from the cross and take him away for burial before the Sabbath, which for people of the Jewish faith, starts on Friday evening.
Christians all over the world celebrate Good Friday by fasting, praying, and commemorating Jesus’ death in a variety of ways. In some places, people participate in cross walks, and in others, congregation members venerate a cross inside their churches. Gospels are read, and in some instances, passion plays are carried out or the Stations of the Cross are prayed.

Whether you celebrate simply by remembering Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, or if you make a pilgrimage to Rome where people follow the traditional path taken by Jesus on his way to Golgotha, this is one day you’ll find you have something in common with Christians everywhere.

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Lent: A Season for Repentance and Reflection

Catholics and many other Christians prepare for the celebration of Easter by spending the preceding six weeks (forty days) fasting, praying, and observing a variety of religious traditions. While Lenten practices vary widely from one place to the next and from one Christian denomination to the next, most believers agree that this is a very important season – a time for repentance and reflection.

What is Lent?

If you’re new to Christianity, you may wonder what Lent is all about. This season commemorates the forty days which Jesus spent fasting and praying in the desert before he began his public ministry. The gospel readings heard and the liturgical rituals experienced during this season are based on the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
The Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday and ends either on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, or Easter Sunday depending on denomination. During this time, faithful people commit to various forms of penitence; often, they simply give up some luxury, like eating a favorite food or even limiting the amount of time they spend on social media like Facebook. Often, people spend extra time devoted to prayer, or they renew their commitment to reading and studying the Bible.

In most Catholic churches and some Protestant churches, decorations are removed from altars and violet fabric is used to cover religious pictures, statues, and icons. In some countries where ancient religious customs are alive and well, people observe a number of different customs related to the passion and death of Christ. In western nations, including the United States, passion plays, living stations of the cross, and other Lenten gatherings are gaining popularity. If you live in an area with a large Hispanic population, you may be able to witness some of the old-fashioned celebrations, and no matter where you live, you might be able to take part in a cross walk or other procession.

Fasting and Abstinence During Lent

People from different faiths observe different customs related to fasting and abstinence. Some people fast from food for days at a time, while others observe the custom of taking in just one main meal per day and two smaller meals that when taken together would not make up another whole meal. Some fast only on Fridays. Many Catholics and some other faithful abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent, while others observe this form of abstinence only on Good Friday.

Whatever it is you decide to fast or abstain from during Lent, try to make it meaningful; but don’t make it so challenging that you won’t be able to keep your commitment. Besides physically fasting or abstaining from things that typically give you pleasure, you can do extra actions to make the season more meaningful. Some ideas include:

• Alms-giving. Give more than usual to a charity of your choice.
• Volunteering. Volunteer to help in your community, or just focus on helping others more than you typically do.
• Praying. Pray more than you usually do. Try setting aside a little extra time to pray each day, or to read the bible. Many people give up some TV time and use it to work on their spiritual lives instead.

Remember that fasting, praying, and observing Lent in other ways is not something we do for show. Instead, we use these methods to improve ourselves spiritually, and to enrich our lives and the lives of others. However you choose to celebrate Lent, do it wholeheartedly – you’ll be surprised by the changes that can take place in your life in just a few short weeks.

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