uac120209001.jpg Bethlehem is an ancient city. The people are a mix of cultures and beliefs, but at Christmas, all of those beliefs and cultures blend into a major celebration. In Bethlehem, Christmas is not observed on any particular day. Bethlehem consists of people of different Christian denominations — Catholics, Protestants, Greek Orthodoxes, Ethiopians, Armenians and more. While Roman Catholics and Protestants celebrate Christmas Day on Dec. 25, Greek, Syrian and other Orthodox Christians observe it on Jan. 6. For Armenian Christians, Christmas Day is on January 18. Hence, Bethlehem witnesses a longer Christmas celebration than many other places.

In Japan, Christmas is not a family holiday. Instead, the occassion holds a special meaning mainly for young people, especially women and teenagers. For young children, it is the time to recieve presents from “Hotei-osho,” a Buddhist monk who is seen as the Japanese equivalent of Santa Claus. For the single women, Christmas Eve evening is the time to spend quality hours with their special someone, much like Valetine’s Day.

In Fayetteville, a city that prides itself on cultural diversity, it seems only natural that there be a celebration of Holy Days that meets the needs of the entire community. That celebration — the World Holiday Festival — has been a year in the making, and promises to have something for everyone.

Liliana Parker, the event coordinator, started working on the idea some time back.

“We always hear there’s nothing to do in December,” she said. “So we thought it would be a good time to put together a festival.”

In the past, a festival designed solely for the Latina community took place in December. Parker thought it would be better to have something geared toward the culturally rich community.

“We saw this as an opportunity to develop this project,” she said. “The World Holiday Festival will showcase the progress of our community in interaction with other cultures while offering a venue for learning and entertainment. It will also bring to its participants an opportunity for friendship and to create links among those who share the same geographical area but live their private lives within their own culture.”

Taking a group of volunteers from the community, the festival’s board set up a planning meeting last year. They broke the group down into three committees, each looking at different aspects of the festival.

“We met throughout the year, fi ne-tuned our plan, and are now ready for the festival,” said Parker.

Slated for Dec. 11-12 at the Crown Arena, the festival will feature music, dancing, vendors and, of course, food.

“Attendees are going to see entertainers of all different kinds on stage. They will be presenting Holy Day music, Christmas Carols and even a fashion show,” said Parker.

Dancers are coming from all over the state, as well as the local area. The Cumberland County Schools are even participating.

“We have bands and aerial performers, who are a lot like the Cirque de Soleil,” she continued. “There will be other representations from different parts of the world — Greece, several Latin American countries and the Pacifi c Islands.”

In keeping with the season, there will also be shopping, lots of shopping. Parker said the vendors make unique, handcrafted items that cannot be found in local stores. And, of course, you can’t forget the food. Parker said the international food court will have a little bit of everything to tempt your taste buds.

“It is a chance for people all over the world to learn things about each other like that the Chinese don’t celebrate the holidays like we celebrate,” said Parker. “This is a chance for people to see that other cultures have another idea of celebration which is different than Christmas. This is not just about Christmas, it is holidays in general.”

The event will run from 12 to 8 p.m. For more info call 433-0791 or check out www.worldholidayfestival.com.

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