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Coming Home
Aug 20, 2002
We moved to Bethlehem. Although technically we moved from Lancaster County, Charlene actually moved home. Having been born and raised in West Bethlehem, for her, Bethlehem had always been a special place. In fact, she talked at length of the town and the Moravians and Christmas traditions and on and on when we first met over 30 years ago. Who were these Moravians and what was so appealing about Bethlehem anyway?

In Lancaster County, we lived out in the countryside, surrounded by a patchwork quilt of Amish farms. Twenty minutes drive to the nearest grocery store - unless you count the general store up the road with the hitching rail for the horses and buggies. A day trip into downtown Lancaster in the early 1970s was an adventure. The city was in the throws of revitalization; not destroying all that was old and erecting everything new, but capitalizing on its history and traditions of being the "oldest inland city." Browsing and wandering through quaint little shops along the main streets; stopping for delicious lunches or suppers at wonderful restaurants tucked in back streets; shopping at the oldest farmers' market in the country which offered everything, yes everything; spending hours looking for just the right book or birthday card at a great book store; it was all there.

We left that behind, packed up, and moved to downtown Bethlehem in the early 1980s. At first I was a little sad, leaving the country and everything that I had known and loved for so many years. But to my delight, what we left behind in Lancaster was just beginning to appear in Bethlehem.

The wonderful, room-after-room Moravian Book Shop was already established; in fact, "Since 1745 - the world's oldest book seller." The quaint little shops were just beginning to emerge on Main Street and now even more are appearing on the Southside. Restaurants of all persuasions were being added to the offerings. And everything was within easy walking distance of my house. No more all-day trips to the city...we were living in the heart of a thriving town!

But there was even more. After an introduction to the rich Moravian history and ethnic cultures of Bethlehem, I realized that Charlene had indeed brought me to a very special place. To a community which valued its past and its traditions. A community which had preserved its historic structures for over 250 years. A community which calls itself "The Christmas City" with its candles in windows, lighted trees on each street corner, a towering evergreen tree on the Hill-to-Hill Bridge and, of course, the shining star on South Mountain which we can see from our very own front porch. Christmas in Bethlehem is a wonderful and magical time.

But what I have also found is that this spirit of the holidays lasts all year through. This is a community of neighbors who care for each other just as our neighbors did in rural Lancaster County. A city, but yet a small town. A real community. Bethlehem has become home, my home.

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