Sunday, December 9, 2012

Night in Bethlehem

This year, I've had the privelege of planning our ward's Christmas party. I teamed up with two other wards in order to plan a "Night in Bethlehem" where we turned our cultural hall into a marketplace on the night of Christ's birth. As a means of documenting this for my own personal records, but also as a way to share with others this idea, I am going to go into depth on the planning of this party. 

It all started with conducting my first Relief Society weekday activity meeting (a committee that plans the monthly women's activities for our church.) This was a new calling for me, so I went to the meeting with lots of ideas for upcoming activities- one being a "Night in Bethelehem." I thought maybe we could have a few small booths, musical performances, and dinner of course. I guess I mentioned this idea to the right people, because before I knew it, I was asked to plan the Ward Christmas party. Then, with the help of the Relief Society President, I was put into contact with 2 other wards to see if they also wanted to do a similar party. 

They did! And for the next few months, the three of us (Travis, Lori, and myself) met periodically- often emailing multiple times a day- trying to get a feel for the logistics for a party with this scale. The three of us planned to team up on the decorations and overall construction for the party, but each ward had their own party and thus did some things slightly differently. {For this post, I will focus on what my ward did specifically.}

We started by meeting with our ward councils/presidencies to get approval for the event. Then we began making invitations to hand out to ward members in order to help get them excited and prepared for the upcoming event. 

I met with my ward council, and divided up the markets to each of the auxiliaries. After a few switches the final assignments were as follows: 
  • Relief Sociey: Pita Inn & Bakery: serving bagels & spreads, pitas, and baked goods 
  • Young Women: Fruit Market: an assortment of fruit
  • Elder's Quorum: Butcher Shop: chicken and veggie kabobs
  • High Priests: Deli: green and black olives, pickles, cheeses, & summer sausage
  • Sunday School: The Well: ice water
  • Bishopric: The Vineyard: punch
  • Hebrew Handwriting/Census: Myself: learned how to write names in Hebrew to sign the Census
  • Children's Area: The Primary: children's activites such as: Nativity craft, dreidels, puzzles etc. 
  • Pottery: Committee Member: Salt dough used to make pottery
  • Tailor's Shop: Committee Member: A shop filled with extra robes to wear if desired

{Pita Inn}


{Fruit Market}

{The Butcher Shop}

{The Deli}

{The Well}

{The Vineyard}

{Hebrew Handwriting/Census}

{Children's Area}


{Tailor's Shop}

Each auxilary was in charge of getting the food for each of their booths, prepping the food, manning the markets on the evening of the party, as well as cleaning up the market afterwards.  With the coordination of one of the sisters, we were able to have a chicken chopping party. We chopped the chicken and then divided up the veggies to chop, and came back another day to assemble and cook the kabobs. It was no small task- thanks {KL} for all your help! 

After months of preparation, the day before the first party was scheduled, the three wards met for a massive set-up. We were able to borrow a lot of decorations from a local craft store called Prairie Gardens. They donated the use of ferns, trees, and tons of baskets that we used to decorate the market. For the set up, I was able to sit on the half court line and direct people to jobs that needed to get done (perfect for a bossy pregnant lady, right?!) What I was worried would take all night and the next day, took a good solid hour and a half to set-up. It was miraculous! The next day we met again to change a few things around, as well as make a few additions to the decorations. All in all, I was super impressed with how quickly the vision I had in my head came to fruition. It was definitely divinely inspired. 

For the night of the party, we invited ward members to come dressed in Biblical robes (out of towels, robes, sheets, pillowcases etc.) and to bring canned goods which are being donated to a local women's shelter. We had seating "Reserved for Honored Citizens of Bethlehem" but for dinner as well as the program we asked families to bring quilts or blankets to picnic on with their families. 

We started off the evening playing a video, "The Nativity," while families where gathering in the hall. Then the Bishop conducted while we had an opening song and prayer, as well as a brief explanation for the event. Then he invited everybody to explore the market. 

{The City Scene}

During the "marketplace time" we were fortunate to have photographers take family photos of individual families up on the stage in front of the {TOTALLY AWESOME!} manger scene. That was for the first 30 minutes or so of the marketplace time, in order to allow the photographers a chance to enjoy the market as well. The rest of the time, members were invited to explore the different food booths, socializing with shopkeepers, as well as enjoying the different activity booths available. 

{Travis, myself, and Lori}

{The Arch}

{The Manger Scene}

{Fields Scenery}

The marketplace time was for the next hour or so, after which we invited everybody to come to the center of the market to watch the program. The program was the nativity being acted out by talented actors of our ward, with congregational Christmas carols being sung as well. For me personally, the highlight of the evening was when my son said, "Baby Jesus, he's happy" during one part of the program. I'm grateful as a parent to have these types of opportunities to reinforce things taught at home, to help reiterate to my children the truths I hold dear. 

{One very tired Shepherd}

After the program, we had a closing prayer, and a brief clean-up (my party was the first of the three parties, so we didn't do too much cleaning that evening). The next day, after the last of the three parties, we had a massive take down. I had come prepared with notecards divvying up assignments and tasks needing to be done, but with little or no direction, everything was taken down and put away- in about an hour! Another miracle. I think the Lord knew that by this point, me and my body couldn't take much more :) 

This event will definitely always hold a special place in my heart. I had this tiny vision, and with the help of so many amazing people, it became bigger and better than anything one mind could have come up with. My testimony has been strengthened in a lot of ways, but especially my knowledge that with the strength of the Lord, all things are possible. Often times there were days when I was too physically exhausted to send out another email, make another phone call, or yet another run to the store, but miraculously, even with as tired as I was, I always had the strength to continue. Yes, it's been about a month since I've done laundry (SH!!!), my own Christmas traditions has been slightly lacking, and PK has watched more Netflix than I even thought possible for a 2 year old, somehow and someway, the Lord made this event possible. It was truly a magical evening, one that I hope helped bring the focus of the time of the year to the Savior. How I'm grateful to Him for his birth, life and death, all of which were to help me come closer to Him and ultimately to have eternal happiness. My heart is very full today :) 

Happy Sunday,