FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The fourth annual Bethlehem Village Christmas is Dec. 4-5 from 5-7 p.m. at the Main Post Chapel lawn and Spiritual Life Center.

Fort Rucker and Wiregrass area Families are welcome to attend the rain-or-shine holiday event, which includes a live nativity scene, foods to sample from Bible times, and 17 different hands-on activities and shops.

The event intends to immerse participants in the culture surrounding Jesus and the first Christmas story, said Nancy Jankoski, Fort Rucker's director of religious education.

"It's free, something Families can do together to have fun and keep the focus of the holiday on why we celebrate Christmas. It will make some of those sermons they hear come alive for them. It's a really good cultural learning event. We've got something for every age and we hope to see a lot of people turn out," Jankowski said.

A site map is provided at the door, and visitors can freely roam through the village and do their favorite activities multiple times. Visitors can pet live animals, learn about Roman hopscotch (physical training), try their hand at writing Hebrew and learn about attending a synagogue in this multi-sensory event.

The village includes a Bethlehem marketplace where visitors can experience how people worked, sold items and trained their children to be apprentices. Other stops along the way include the flight to Egypt, where visitors learn about when Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus fled from King Herod, and a Temple demo where the chaplain will explain the display and how worship was done in biblical times. Villages had a synagogue for people to attend each Sabbath day to learn what the scriptures meant.

"When you're reading passages in the Bible and it's not the way you do worship now, then when you actually see somebody demonstrate how they would use the brazen altar, it makes it easier when you're reading scriptures to picture what was going on," Jankowski said.

At the carpentry shop, people can learn how in Bible times there were no standardized or metric tools, so carpenters based measurements on the width of the hand or the length of the arm from elbow to fingertip. While those measurements were standard to one carpenter, they would be different for another who was taller or shorter, Jankowski said.

"When (people) go to the carpentry shop we let them use actual First Century rudimentary tools and show them how they did measurements with what they had available to them," she said. "They actually step into the Bible culture."

The village was inspired by a nondenominational vacation Bible school curriculum based on the Christmas story. One way to get more bang for their buck from VBS is by making the Christmas holiday a hands-on family learning opportunity, Jankowski said.

"A lot of times we think of vacation Bible school as for children only, but it occurred to me we can get multiple uses out of this," she said. "People learn best when they use all five senses. This event does that. They're engaged in the learning."

Bethlehem Village is an event garrison Chaplain (Col.) Stephen Cook said he is proud of.

"What's remarkable is the creativity of Nancy Jankowski," he said. "She's been doing this for a long time. This is just one of many projects she does throughout the year that fascinate people."
The Spiritual Life Center is located at Bldg 8939.

For more information, call the Religious Education Center, 255-3946/9555.