Updated: Jan 2
If this holiday season has inspired you to plan your own Christmas wedding, then our blog from guest author Elizabeth London is one worth checking out. She just got back from a Christmas-themed wedding in Christmas City, USA – haven’t heard of it? Neither had we! Read on!
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There is an adorable town outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that you’ve probably never heard of called Bethlehem. I was recently there for a wedding and discovered first-hand that it’s the perfect time of year to venture to this charming town that has rightfully earned the nickname Christmas City, USA. I was in for quite the pleasant holiday surprise!
Founded on Christmas Eve 1741 and named after the biblical town in Judea, Bethlehem residents celebrate their town’s unique history to the fullest. Pulling into downtown Bethlehem was like being transported to another era. Cobblestoned Main Street lined with antique-style streetlights wrapped in holiday garlands and red ribbons, colonial buildings with candles in every window, and even a white horse-drawn carriage that chimed with jingle bells as he rode by. Boutique shops, chocolate-makers, wineries, restaurants, antiques, and my favorite – the Moravian Book Shop, which took over an hour to explore every nook and cranny! Every shop has an over-the-top Christmas display in the window and lights twinkling from every corner.
I stayed at the Historic Hotel Bethlehem, right in the middle of Main Street, and it lived up to its name in atmosphere and charm! Built in 1922 but restored with modern amenities, the hotel had the most amazing Christmas décor I’ve seen in any one building. There wasn’t just one Christmas tree – there were dozens! One on every landing! Lights and ribbons, Santas and snowmen galore! The wedding took place in the ballroom, and the bride and groom did not need to add any of their own décor because the hotel had it covered from the moment guests walked in the front door.
Since I was there for a couple of days, I loved being able to explore the town by foot, sneaking into shops and wine tastings between the planned wedding festivities. If you like sweet wine, do the wine tasting at Franklin Hill Vineyards’ tasting room. Or, if you like something sturdier, Bethlehem Brew Works has a great beer flight, and Colony Meadery at the Book Shop offers mead tastings. I ogled a fur coat at Designer Consigner, scored some gorgeous vintage jewelry at The Attic consignment shop and added a boho Everly dress to my collection from the boutique Aquarius.
There’s a stone bridge over a quiet river that flows down from the nearby hills, where there is a bright “star of Bethlehem” that shines like a beacon over the town. I spent a few quiet minutes taking it all in over a cup of hot chocolate from the German-style outdoor Christmas market. (Yes there’s one of those too! It’s called Weihnachtsmarkt and is free to the public!)
On my way back to the hotel for the night, I stumbled upon the live Advent calendar ceremony. Every night during December, a different local merchant pops out of the museum door, rings a bell, gives a demonstration and then offers treats to the gathered crowd, letting them know how many days are left until Christmas. ( I got Hershey kisses after we all sang Silver Bells together!) If I wasn’t already in the Christmas spirit, Bethlehem definitely put me in a great one to start the last month of the year!
Check out the wedding photos from Alison Conklin Photography that feature downtown Bethlehem and Historic Hotel Bethlehem’s gorgeous ambience!