Grandpa had an idea Saturday night. We went out in the cold for pizza, stopped to buy William mittens, and headed off to Bethlehem Marketplace.
William was quite happy with the pizza. He loved his new mittens. But when the Roman Centurian came out to demand which family we were from, well, William was not amused. We followed the centurian through twists and turns of the darkened church hallways, lit only by tiny battery operated tealights and fairy lights to signify the stars on a dark night. "Mind your step," the guard demanded, stamping his feet loudly so that we would not surprise any lions on the way. William was not pleased, and truth be told, I was starting to worry that perhaps this was not a child-friendly presentation.
We finally reached the market place, where spices hung heavy in the air, and we were offered smells of cardamom and frankincense, and the like. Homemade flat breads were offered to sample as a beggar crawled at our feet. Weavers wove and seasoned meat was offered. A merchant questioned my husband on the strange headgear that he wore. "What is Bimbadeen?" he asked, and we explained that it was a landowner in a faraway country called Australia who owned many cattle, and the merchant asked curiously, "How many days would it take to get there by donkey?" It made us laugh.
By then, William had relaxed too. He loves to sample things. He had some bread and a grape, and some dried fruits. He saw a well in the center of the market place and we explained this is where the water was drawn. He clambored up the side and looked down, and when he saw that previous guests had thrown money in, he wanted money too. He spent some happy time throwing coins. He loves to throw stuff too.
We were ushered to a nearby inn to refresh ourselves, and witnessed a Roman official and the innkeeper arguing about being taxed yet again. "You were robbed by dishonest Hebrews," the Roman official snarled. After an argument, the innkeeper paid up, and a little girl in the crowd was asked to count the coins to make sure there were five. William was very interested in the fake fire that glowed brightly, and a fish 'roasted'. He squatted there admiring the fish and eating a small piece of chocolate, chatting with the innkeepers wife, ignoring the debate altogether.
We went out of the inn, and found two shepherds complaining about the boredom of their work. 'If only, if ONLY something interesting would happen...' William was listening to their conversation intently, and just about jumped out of his hide when the angelic host began to sing "Hallelujah!!!" above our heads.
Still, he was game to follow the shepherds, and we were back outside on our way. We saw Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus with along with three sheep: Athos, Aramis, and Porthos.
The next morning, I dropped him home after church. Brianna called. "Did your church have its Christmas pageant?" and I said, "No. I don't think we have enough kids for one." Brianna said, "How strange. ever since he got home, William's been going on and on about finding baby Jesus in a manger with the sheep." I suppose it's safe to say that William enjoyed himself at the Bethlehem market place.