Last weekend was one of the highlights of our Christmas season…the Holy Walk.   Every year for the past 32 years the whole community of Bremen–the churches, the grocery store, the school, etc–comes together to put on this two night event.

We’ve gone to it for almost 15 years straight and enjoyed it every time.  This year was our first time being in it and we have decided that being in it is even more fun that going to it.  Since we were supposed to be in character, we couldn’t take pictures while we were acting out our parts, but Susannah got a few pictures when the villagers were getting into their places.

 

Oh how can I tell you everything about those two wonderful nights?!  I know I can’t, but I will try and tell you some of the best parts 😀

 

The picture below is of the map that the guides show their ‘families’.  It is actually a picture from a previous year that I’m borrowing from the Holy Walk Facebook page 🙂  This year was actually quite warm and on Saturday and we didn’t even wear gloves.

Mommy and I were guides, and we both picked Joppa (see lower left part of map) as the place we were from without realizing that was where the other one had picked 😀  All of the guests are bused from the Bremen high school and taken to the Holy Walk location where Roman soldiers order them off of the bus and divide them into family sizes of anywhere from 17 to 30, depending on how many people there are.  The guides take them from there and the group becomes their ‘family’.  If you were in my family, you would have been from the family of Rachel of Joppa, and our trade was pottery.  We also had to remember how many were in our family, because the soldiers were sure to ask!

I  would show you this map, to show where we were from, and where we were going.  I usually also explained that it was unusual for a woman to be leading a family, but that we had been robbed on our journey and my husband had been badly beaten and was recovering in Jerusalem.   The first night I didn’t really explain where my husband was, and when the tax collector asked where he was…well, I’ll get to that later!!! 😀

Something else I made sure my family knew was our currency…one denarius is a full days wage, and there are eighty leptah in a denarius.  Something very important to remember when we would go to the village to buy supplies for our journey back to Joppa and the shopkeepers would try to charge us large prices.

 

At the beginning of the walk, you see Mary and Joseph resting alongside the road, and we stop to talk to them.  Everyone greets everyone else (minus the Romans) with ‘Shalom’.  It is ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’ and ‘God’s peace go with you.’

 

We find Bethlehem inn, which is what this blurry picture is 😀  The man in the blue stripes was one of the ‘innkeepers’ who had to tell us that there’s no room and he cannot let us in.  They do a really good job and it is fun to beg and plead with them, and the little kids in our group all put on sad faces, hoping to soften his heart to let them in.

Before too long, we meet the Roman soldiers.   As mean and gruff as they are, it gives you a *little* taste of what the Jews in Jesus’ time had to endure, and they actually add a lot of fun to the Holy Walk 😀   I usually prepare my family for them by saying that there are a lot of them in Bethlehem tonight, and even though we are peaceful and respectful as possible, we detest them; they take our money, they’re rude, and they stink!   And they are not happy to be away from their own families to oversee us pay our taxes, which makes them even more irritable.

  The guys who play the Romans have a lot of fun with it, and I do not know how they can keep a straight face through it all.  I tried to, but it didn’t work very well!   On Friday night it was late and I since I was done being a guide, I wandered around the village and with my friend, Danica, who is in charge of recruiting the volunteers.  She was going around to the different tents to see if the soldiers needed lozenges, water, etc.  So we went into the tax collector’s tent and after she made sure they had everything they needed, they put on their ‘Roman voices’ and said, “Now get out of here!” 😀

 

 

See the guard in the red?  He was the tallest, most intimidating Roman soldier in Bethlehem.  I do not know how he did it, but I never saw him crack a smile.  The shepherds told my family as we were leaving them (before we got into Bethlehem), that they had heard there was an eight-foot Roman in Bethlehem.  A six or seven-foot Roman stopped us at one point, and a girl in my family said, “Is that the eight-foot soldier???”  I knew it wasn’t, but I had fun playing my part and said, “I don’t know!  If there’s anyone taller than him I might run scared!”   When we saw ‘Goliath’ as we nicknamed him, they knew right away, that was him!  😀 The picture does not show very well just how tall he was, but he was very big and intimidating.

You also see the woodcutters in this picture…and they were hilarious!  They talked with an accent and argued among themselves even when a group wasn’t talking to them.  Once someone in my family broke the handle off (it is a very old saw!) and so they acted like they were perturbed with my family.  “You have broken our saw and now we cannot work to make money!”  Then one of my ornery ‘sons’ said, “Look at it this way, you have the rest of the day off!” 😀

The Romans call every guide either an ‘old man’ or ‘old woman’, no matter what your age.  It might sound strange, but one of my favorite parts of Saturday night was when younger girls would look aghast when a Roman would ‘insult’ me.   Once while we were waiting to go into the Roman tent before we were taxed, the eight-foot Roman guard came up to our family and bellowed out at our family, “Why are you stinking up my road???”  Remembering that the Romans were supposed to be the ones that smelled bad, I answered, “I do not think it is us who are stinking up the road sir!”

He glared right down at me from his high and mighty intimidating height and said, “So!  You are a scholar! You think you are so smart!  Tell me then, WHY has it taken you SO long to get through such a puny town as Bethlehem?”  (by that time we had visited all of the shops, and so it had taken us awhile to get through.)

I said, “The streets were crowded, there are so many people!”  to which he replied, “You are not as dumb as you look!”  and one of my girls looked at him and looked at me like, “How dare he?”   Then we got into the tent and they soldiers shouted at me, ‘Get your family in here, old woman!’ and my girls looked a little shocked again.

Another time, ‘Goliath’ stopped our family and asked them if we thought Caesar’s taxes were fair.  Of course we said no!

“Caesar is a fair man and he only charges fair taxes, ” he bellowed, “and he only charges taxes by the head.  If you would like, I can start removing taxes for you,” and he would point his realistic looking sword at certain people and I would quickly say, “No!  We need all of our heads!”

“Then you agree that Caesar’s taxes are fair!”  and we all reluctantly agreed.

“Therefore you should be excited to be here for the privilege of paying such fair taxes, do you not agree?  This one here does not look excited,” he said pointing to someone in the group with his sword, “Let me see your excited face!”   So of course the person would smile and the soldier said, “That is much better!”

One of my groups was especially ornery and lively, and one of my boys sassed ‘Goliath’.  So the Roman made him kneel down in front of him and repeat after him, “Oh great and fair Caesar, ruler of the world, forgive me for my stupidness!”

Daddy, Leah, Susannah, Cassia, Anna, Rebekah, Charissa and the boys ran the grain tent the first night, and the produce the second.  They did such a good job and it was fun to see them in character, as well as talk to them in character 😀  They did an excellent job of getting my families involved as we bartered for grapes, apples and a new invention…dried grapes! 😀

By the way, don’t my little brothers make the cutest little Bible boys?!

 

As we went through the village, we bartered for produce, grain, hotcakes, baskets, sandals, a new water pot (because someone in my family always had broken the water pot on our journey.  I always said that I did not blame them too much, though, since they had thrown it at a robber when we had been robbed 😀 )  Some of the tents give out samples of roasted apples, grapes, hotcakes, etc, so the guests get a little ‘snack’ during their visit.

 

My sisters always told us not to buy the roasted apples from Rachel on the other side of the village, telling us that she roasts them to kill the worms.  So we asked Rachel about this and she laughed and said, no, no, no!  “Do you know what we do with the wormy apples?!  We feed them to the Romans!”  And of course that made us all laugh 😀

 

The Romans made sure we didn’t take too long in the village.  One time, a soldier hollered at our family, “Who’s in charge here?!”  and I would reply, “I am!”

“Wrong answer!!!  I am in charge here and I am telling you to move your family along!”

For the next four or five shops, he asked the same question and I gave the same answer.  One guide was smarter than I was. He told the Roman, “You’re in charge!”  and the Roman told him, “You are not as dumb as you look!”

 

 

At the sandal making tent, they had fur lined and regular sandals.  I always had a couple of children who were in need of new sandals,  so we asked how much for a pair of sandals and he told us two denarii.  My family told him that was way too much, so I asked him how much for the regular sandals, with no fur.

“Oh!”, he said, “you mean the economy sandals!  They are also two denarii!”
I said, “What?!  The economy and the fur lined are the same price??”
So we finally agreed on trading some labor for a pair of sandals 😀

Did I tell you it’s lots of fun to barter with the shopkeepers?!

 

‘Sarah’, at Sarah’s Jewels always does an excellent job of drawing people in and trying to get them to buy necklaces, earrings and ‘nose rings’ 😀  She once picked a man in my group and said, “You look like a man who has many wives, don’t you want to buy some of this beautiful jewelry for them?”  😀

 

In the 15 years that we’ve gone to the Holy Walk, my favorite guides were the ones who got out of themselves and fully into their character, not caring how ‘strange’ they might look.   I so wanted to be like that as a guide.  Normally,  I am not terribly good at acting, and I do not like organizing or leading  groups of people…especially people I don’t know.

I was so nervous beforehand and Jesus gave me Psalm 71:16, “I will go in the strength of the Lord God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, even of thine only.”  I was praying, “Jesus, show me what your strength looks like!”  And did He ever!   I was encouraged by hearing the ‘veteran guides’ talk about how rewarding it is to be a guide,  and how He had given them strength.

When it was my turn to take a group on Saturday,  I was nervous for only the first fifty yards or so 🙂  By the time we had walked to the map, I was enjoying it, and three groups later and at 1:30 in the morning I was LOVING it! 😀   When I look back at everything we girls did and said, I am amazed!  God’s strength is real and amazing, and He is so kind to make us not only strong, but also to cause us enjoy it immensely!

I was also very blessed to be able to go through for the first time with my friend, Danica.  She shines the love of Jesus and her exuberance is contagious 😀   Then on Saturday when I was feeling nervous again, another ‘veteran guide’ (who has been guiding 30 of the 32 years that the Holy Walk has been in existence) let me go through with her.  It was very helpful and helped me to relax a little bit. 🙂

 

 

I was also blessed with four wonderful groups 😀  Some groups are very shy and quiet, and so the guide must work harder to draw them out.  My first group on Saturday was so much fun!  They haggled with the shopkeepers,  sassed the guards, and were so lively, they made my job extremely enjoyable.  My other groups were also lots of fun. One of them had some of my friends in it, so of course that was fun to be their ‘mother’, and they were also very good at bartering and talking with the villagers.   In my last group I had family members old enough to be my parents and grandparents, so when I said, “My name is Rachel and I am your mother tonight!”   I could hear some of them laugh 😀

 

See the wagon in the picture below?  It belonged to the grain tent, and on Friday night, my sisters pulled it through Bethlehem shouting, “Finest grain in Bethlehem!”  I tried to take a ride, but they insisted I would break their cart!

 

 

Some of the Romans must have been getting a wood-cutting lesson 😀   It was great fun to see the villagers and soldiers act and interact with each other.  Sunday and Monday, we girls were still somewhat in ‘Bethlehem mode’, and kept greeting each other with ‘Shalom!’   And I went out to the barn and teased Susannah, “What?!  You do not milk my goats for me?!”  and she said, “You’re using your Bethlehem voice!”  😀

 

In the tax collector’s tent, the head of the household pays one denarius for each family member.  They also have stocks that they delight in finding a reason to throw you in.   Once a Roman guard brought a lady to the tax collector and said, “She’s flashing a light at us!” (taking a picture).  So she had to kneel in front of him and explain what she was doing.  Another time he asked a girl in my family how many men were in the family.  She didn’t know the answer, so she got put in the stocks and was told to count them as they walked by 😀

On Friday night, the tax collector asked where my husband was.

“He died.”
“I can see why, with a family like this.  How long ago did he die?”
“Five years ago”
“Why don’t you have another husband after all this time?”
Since I didn’t know what to say, I just said, “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?! What’s the matter, no one wants you or what?”
“I guess not.”
“You guess not?!  How many are in your family?”
“Twenty-one”
“Then you pay twenty-two denari and have a husband by next year, do you understand?”
“Yes sir!”

Then the next night when I told him my husband had been beaten and was recovering in Jerusalem, he still charged me one extra denarius for him.   Those Romans!

 

 

I also had fun (as did all of the actors) with acting confused with modern technology or products.  Once one of my boys told me he wasn’t tired, he had a Monster before he came.  So I looked at him confused and said, “A monster? you ate a dragon?!!”

Someone else in another group must have asked the Roman guard about the cellphone tower that was visible from where we were.  He looked at it and said, “The lights?!  Who climbed up and put candles up there?”

You could tell what football teams the Roman guards liked (or didn’t like) by who they put in jail 😀  Someone had a Purdue hat on, and so they gave them a hard time saying, “What kind of a sign of the devil is this?!”  and someone else had a Indiana University hat to which the guard pointed and and said, “Now this, this is a sign from heaven!”

 

 

The villagers and soldiers also had fun with funky hats.  Someone had a zebra head on their hat, so the shopkeeper asked what kind of animal this was?   So I explained that it was a wild animal that they had caught and made a hat for themselves, or I would tell them that they were very stylish in Joppa nowadays.

Mommy had a couple of strollers in her group, so the Romans wanted to know what these ‘horseless chariots’ were.

The first time I went through on Saturday night with the experienced guide, some yo-yo sped by in his truck, hollering out at us like a screaming banshee (or some other awful sounding noise) 😀  One of the people in our group was very quick and said, “Sounds like the Romans got to him!”  😀

 

 

At the end of the Holy Walk, after you’ve paid your taxes, you see Mary and Joseph again, only this time they’re in the stable and holding a baby (a very realistic looking doll), and finally you see the cross where we briefly get to share the Gospel message with them.

People from Canada, Europe, Israel, Australia and different U.S. states have come to visit over the years.  In one of the groups I was in, someone had come all the way from Toledo,  Ohio to attend the Holy Walk.   I heard that according to the Indianapolis Star,  the Holy Walk was no. 2 on a list of the ‘Top Ten Things To Do in Indiana” for December!   Mommy had a lady who had been to the Holy Walk, had brought her children, and now she was bringing her grandchildren and great-grandchildren!

 

{Paul’s Grain Mill}

 

The Holy Walk’s facebook status afterwards said:

 

A total of 4,400 people walked through the Holy Walk this weekend.
300+ volunteers, 350 dozen cookies, 70 lanterns, 400 pathway lights, dozens of animals, just over a mile worth of ground, and MONTHS worth of work all come together to put on an amazing show of Bethlehem the night Christ was born.
We pray that each of the 4,400 people were wonderfully blessed and will be touched by our Father’s love in ways they had not imagined!!!

 

 

This is all of us girls at about 1:30 a.m. Saturday night.   Daddy took the boys home at about 10:30 since they were getting really tired.  We were tired but sad that it was all over.  Holy Walk 2013…we can’t wait for you to get here!  😀

 

If you read through all three-thousand-two-hundred-and-ninety-four words that I rambled on for…you are wonderful 😀  I hope it at least gives you a little taste of all the fun we had last weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

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26 thoughts on “The Holy Walk

  • December 6, 2012 at 3:16 pm
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    What incredible fun!
    I wish we were closer, b/c we’d definately be there.

    Merry Christmas, and keep sharing your adventures with us!

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    • December 6, 2012 at 6:08 pm
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      Thank you Tammy!

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  • December 6, 2012 at 4:48 pm
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    It was very fun to be your group , but you really need to work on not being a forget full Mother 😀 It was very funny when you and the big soldier was glaring at each other. But I could tell you were really having trouble keeping the smile off your face 😀 I was really wanting to take pictures but I didn’t think I should ( especially with the other lady flashing up a storm ).Next year I am hoping to help.

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    • December 6, 2012 at 6:01 pm
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      Lol Hope!!! I know, I kept getting people’s names mixed up, but you must give me some grace…I had four families to remember their names, lol! You definitely could have taken pictures, but I’m not promising that you wouldn’t have gotten yourself into the stocks or something, lol! You girls were great ‘children’ 😉 -Jessica

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      • December 7, 2012 at 6:16 pm
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        I wanted to smart off but mom told me years ago not to do that so I left it to the boy of the family.

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        • December 7, 2012 at 10:48 pm
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          Hehehe! Good thing, or else you would have had to kneel and repeat after him, too! 😀 -Jessica

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        • December 8, 2012 at 2:58 pm
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          Could I have repeated in Pig Latin?

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          • December 8, 2012 at 10:50 pm
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            Lolol! 😀

            Reply
  • December 6, 2012 at 6:31 pm
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    Looks like you all had fun.

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  • December 7, 2012 at 9:26 am
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    Oh wow, wish we was closer to. I know we would of been there.
    Thank you for sharing the photos…

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  • December 7, 2012 at 9:32 am
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    I just recently started following your blog and I really enjoy it! You made me laugh so hard in this post. The Holy Walk sounds like a lot of fun to participate in and that’s great y’all incorporated the Gospel into it, too. Thanks for sharing. ~ Lauren 🙂

    Reply
  • December 7, 2012 at 9:46 am
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    This is amazing! Thank you so much for your 3,294 words and all the awesome pictures – I wish I’d been able to be there! It sounds like you had a wonderful time – what an incredible experience!! 🙂

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  • December 7, 2012 at 10:54 am
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    Awwww!!! such good times! I had so much fun reading your post! brought back good memories!! hard to believe it was only just last weekend :-0 can’t wait till next year!! 😀

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    • December 7, 2012 at 12:07 pm
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      Me too, Maddie! Such good memories 😀 -Jessica

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  • December 7, 2012 at 10:58 am
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    Sounds like so much fun!! Those Roman solders remind me of Bethlehem walk we went on a couple years ago! That was neat! Thanks for posting. :} ~KK~

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  • December 8, 2012 at 9:16 am
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    How awesome and fun is that? I can see why you go every year and now participate.

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  • December 9, 2012 at 7:12 pm
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    Yes, Jessica! I read all 3,294 words of this post and loved every bit of it! It sounds like you all had a lot of fun, and I love the picture of you in your costumes!

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    • December 9, 2012 at 10:31 pm
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      Yay! You are wonderful, Sarah 😀 Glad you enjoyed reading it 😀 I could probably talk to people about it until I drove them to distraction, I loved it so much, hehe!
      ♥Jessica

      Reply
  • December 14, 2012 at 12:17 pm
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    Do you celebrate any other holidays in your town this time of year? I am wondering about Hanukah, Kwanzaa, etc.

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    • December 14, 2012 at 1:04 pm
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      Well, that’s a hard question 🙂 It’s a small town where most of the people celebrate Christmas, but I’m sure there could be Hanukkah and Kwanza celebrations that we don’t know about. The Holy Walk became Bremen’s ‘thing’ over 32 years, starting out with one church and then spreading to all the churches and then the whole community. 🙂
      -Jessica

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  • December 17, 2012 at 7:39 pm
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    That looks like so much fun! I wish there was somewhere that put that on down here in GA. =)

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  • December 20, 2012 at 6:13 pm
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    Hey girls … I’m not sure if you ever do tags or awards or anything like that, but just for fun, I’ve tagged you with a Christmas tag over at my blog!

    Merry Christmas!!

    Love in Christ,
    Vicki

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    • December 24, 2012 at 7:30 pm
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      Thanks Vicki! 😀

      Reply
  • December 30, 2012 at 9:38 pm
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    That is SOOOO cool! What a great idea! It would have been a lot of fun but would have required a lot of organisation, too. Great job.

    Jess

    Reply

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