• James Parry

Walk to Bethlehem in St. Lazare re-enacts the Christmas story of 2000 years ago

PHOTO BY JAMES PARRY Guarding the gate of entry, Roman soldiers check out the ‘passport’ of Vaudreuil-Soulanges Liberal MP Peter Schiefke (right) as he was about to embark on a Walk to Bethlehem at the Hudson Baptist Community Church in St. Lazare this past weekend.

For 12 years now, thousands from miles around have flocked to a little church in St. Lazare at this time of year to participate in a walk unlike any other. Namely, a flickering torch-lit Walk to Bethlehem in what is a unique re-enactment of the original Christmas story.

That church is the Hudson Community Baptist Church on Côte St-Charles in St. Lazare just above the Four Corners at the intersection of Route Harwood where its spacious grounds - formerly riding stables - are transformed into ancient Bethlehem with over 130 costumed cast, along with another 100 behind-the-scenes volunteers, serving as singers, actors, carpenters, costume makers, parking lot attendants, cookie bakers, and so much more to make it a truly unforgettable experience for visitors of all ages.

During which they will be guided to 12 'stations' complete with live animals, a bustling marketplace, shepherds with real sheep, singing angels, wisemen, King Herod, Roman soldiers, and Mary and Joseph and the child Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes in the stable barn.

It all begins with visitors being shepherded through the Roman gates into a welcome centre where a costumed guide sets the stage for the journey that casts them as fellow travellers who must obey the law of the land while on their way to Bethlehem to pay taxes and be counted in the recently-announced census.

They are given a shekel coin and a 'passport' which they must keep for the duration of the tour in order to experience the sights and sounds of life as it was 2000 years ago. If not, they could be thrown in jail by centurions only to be released, perhaps contingent upon the rest of their group singing a song or paying a special fine.

Music, performed by 85 singers and musicians, is an important part of the evening, as are live animals including goats, sheep, donkeys, horses, and alpacas. And after the memorable visit to Bethlehem, visitors are transported back to the 21st Century to warm up inside the Christmas Café to enjoy hot chocolate and homemade cookies, pastries, and cakes baked by an army of volunteers. And where they can chat with some of the cast or meet with friends while listening to beautiful live Christmas carols.

There is no charge for The Walk to Bethlehem, although donations to help cover the costs are appreciated. Visitors are also encouraged to take along a non-perishable food item to go to families in need, to be distributed by the Dorion Dream Centre food bank.

As the historical re-enactment, which occurs this Friday and Saturday, December 2 and 3, takes place outdoors on sometimes uneven terrain, warm clothing and sturdy walking shoes are recommended. Reservations are not necessary and tours, with either English or French guides, leave about every 10 minutes beginning at 6 p.m. Friday and 5 p.m. Saturday.

The church is located at 3141 Côte St-Charles, Exit 22 from Highway 40, corner Route Harwood, and for more info go to www.hudsonbaptist.com/walktobethlehem or call (450) 458-1945.

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