A robed figure at the city gate blows an authentic Shofar, purchased in the Middle East and used in the South Hill Adventist Church's annual presentation of the Journey to Bethlehem. Three Decembers ago, the South Hill Seventh-Day Adventist Church began a tradition, a walk-through version of the City of Bethlehem on the night Christ was born. Over 3,000 people per year visit this realistic presentation of the first Christmas.
Is not your average seasonal crèche. Hundreds of people worked for countless hours to create a lifelike Middle Eastern town, reminiscent of first century Bethlehem. The set includes more than 20 booths, each hand-built and painted. In the evening chill with a warm glow from a path of Tiki torches, walls of stucco, wood, brick and stone houses, bread sellers, a blacksmith, a perfume shop, and a tax collector gruffly demanding that Caesar be given his due.
Artisans demonstrating ancient skills to include a handmade loom and grinding wheel. Shop keepers will be hawking wares such as authentic myrrh, freshly baked bread, pottery and jewelry. An extensive amount of man-power and time goes into gathering the props and building sets. Actors practice in advance to make sure that visitors are part of the most authentic nativity experience possible.
To further lend to the realism of the event a religious leader will be walking the streets, a live camel wanders back and forth past the visitor pathway, goats huddle together between bales of hay and villagers rush back and forth on their way to and from the market.
In addition to the sets and props from the last two years visitors to this year's event will enjoy more live animals, over one hundred costumed actors and hundreds of props.