Crowds of people were everywhere on this busy day in Bethlehem.

Bread, fish and clothing vendors shouted from the market, hawking wares and necessities to the crowds that made their way through the streets of the City of David.

A government order had been issued for the citizens of Rome to be counted in the census of Caesar Augustus, the Roman Emperor.

The day was mild.

The sun was shining.

Flocks of sheep and goats grazed in the fields around the city.

A couple, Joseph and Mary, recently got married and lived in the Galilee, where Joseph worked as a carpenter.

They were humble people who went to Bethlehem on a donkey, but the journey was slow because Mary was about to give birth to her first child; a child she already loved, and like any mother-to-be, she had high hopes for her son’s future – because she had been told he would change the world.

For now, however, she was also uncomfortable as she and Joseph made their way to a place of lodging.

Her husband, Joseph, had been patient during the trip, but was anxious to get into town to find a room for the night.

There were no rooms to find.

The tired couple finally found a place to rest in a small cave, a sort of barn.

Among the animals, they found a quiet place for the mother to give birth on her own in a strange town with only her husband to help them.

“And she gave birth to her firstborn son, wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,” according to Luke in the New Testament.

Mary and Joseph stayed in Bethlehem for several days as they finished their business, but they soon found that the birth of the baby Jesus aroused great interest.

The apostle Luke said, “There were shepherds in the same land dwelling in the fields, tending their flocks at night.

“… (when) the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them. “

“Do not be afraid,” said the angel.

“I bring you good news of great joy, which will be for everyone.

“For you were born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke declares: “Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:” Glory be to God in the highest heavens, and peace on earth, good will towards men. “

Curious, the shepherds, witnesses of what can only be described as a miracle, go to town to find the baby “lying in a manger.”

“And when they saw him, they made known abroad the word which was spoken to them concerning this child”, according to Luke.

News of the birth quickly spread throughout the region – one family told another until many people, even those in influential positions, heard about the birth of the new king.

From that eventful day until today, the story of Christ’s birth in this crowded city, under the watchfulness of mere animals, has been passed on to people all over the world.

Ever since I was a kid, Christmas was a day when Dad didn’t have to work.

With my brother and sisters, we helped mom in the kitchen.

We opened our gifts, took some silly photos, and wondered why batteries weren’t included in all of our electronic toys.

We knew Santa Claus was there because the cookies were bitten and the milk was gone.

Santa’s gifts were never wrapped, and our stockings were always filled with weird things that could never have been bought in local stores.

The television remained off until late afternoon and the house was filled with torn wrapping paper, plastic boxes, styrofoam and the smell of ham.

It was a wonderful time.

It is still today that I am preparing to enjoy the same Christmas traditions with my own family.

All over our country and even around the world, Christmas is a traditional day that began over 2,000 years ago when a husband and wife gathered to marvel at the gift they received under the shape of a little boy.

Next week we celebrate this event by getting together with friends and family, giving each other gifts in the tradition of the season.

Whether you are a Christian or not, an agnostic or an atheist; whether you are giving news of Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or New Year’s greetings; Whether you are singing hymns in church, lighting candles in a window, marking the day with a fast, or watching football on TV, Saturday will be a day to focus on the spirit of the season.