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It all began in Nazareth

It all began in Nazareth, where Gabriel appeared to Mary, but there are other places, too, throughout the Holy Land, that figure in the original Christmas story. Here, we show you some of the sites that lie at the very root of the modern-day celebrations.

From Nazareth where the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary with the very first “Ave Maria" – “Hail Mary, full of grace” – to Bethlehem where the baby was born; Ein Kerem where Mary's kinsfolk Elizabeth and Zechariah became parents to John the Baptist, and the River Jordan where John baptised Jesus at the start of his ministry... the locations that are named and described in the Christian story are more than simply words in a book. The places are real, and can be visited in the Holy Land. What's more, centuries of tradition locate the specific sites of the Christmas story – the manger where the baby was laid wrapped in swaddling clothes, the house where Mary lived as a chid and where the angel spoke to her...

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Holy Land, Christmas
The ancient village of Ein Kerem, the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah, is now a neighbourhood of Jerusalem. Today, the Catholic church of St John the Baptist stands at the birthplace of John the Baptist, while the church of the Visitation is said to be where Mary visited John's mother, her cousin Elizabeth, while the two women were both pregnant / © A. Fernandez de la Vega 

Holy Land, Christmas
Three million people visit the tiny neighbourhood of Ein Kerem, many of them international pilgrims following in the footsteps of Mary, mother of Jesus / © A. Fernandez de la Vega 

Holy Land, Christmas
Jesus grew up in Nazareth, and tradtition says the Basilica of the Annunciation is built on the site of his mother's childhood home / Stock & © A. Fernandez de la Vega 

Holy Land, Christmas
The Grotto of the Annunciation under the Basilica is said to be the site where the Archangel Gabriel appeared and told Mary of her pregnancy and the future of the child she would have / © A. Fernandez de la Vega 

Holy Land, Christmas
In the hills about nine kilometres from Jerusalem lies Bethlehem, where Jesus was born when his parents went to take part in the census / © Palestine Touris 

Holy Land, Christmas
Tradition says a star led the Wise Men to the stable, and a silver star surrounded by lamps in the grotto of the Basilica of the Nativity in Bethlehem commemorates the spot where Jesus was born / © A. Fernandez de la Vega 

Holy Land, Christmas
Christian pilgrims who visit the cave beneath the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem will pay their respects at the site of the manger / © Palestine Tourism 

Holy Land, Christmas
The present Basilica of the Nativity was built by Emperor Justinian (527-565 AD) on the site of the fourth-century basilica built by Constantine, which had been badly damaged during the Samaritan revolt in 529 / © Palestine Tourism 

Holy Land, Christmas
Stained-glass window depicting the Nativity scene, the origin of the Christian celebration of Christmas / © A. Fernandez de la Vega 

Holy Land, Christmas
All around Bethlehem there are works of art commemorating the adoration of the shepherds who left their flocks after being told of the birth by angels / © A. Fernandez de la Vega 

Holy Land, Christmas
Bible scholars agree that Jesus was not born on December 25, but billions of people around the world celebrate the day as a holiday / © A. Fernandez de la Vega 

Holy Land, Christmas
Jesus was baptised in the river Jordan River by his cousin John; today many pilgrims witness to their faith by being baptised here / © A. Fernandez de la Vega 

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