COLUMBIA — Fairview United Methodist Church’s "Little Bethlehem" has been a church tradition for almost 20 years.
The event allows visitors to walk through an interactive town of Bethlehem, guided by a shepherd who seeks the savior. Visitors talk to the gatekeeper and innkeeper before arriving at a stable, where they meet Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus. They also witness the three Wise Men bringing gifts and an angel.
After walking through the town of Bethlehem, visitors are led inside the church, where cookies and hot cider are available. They then join in singing Christmas carols with the church choir, which is accompanied by several musicians.
The event continues to grow larger every year. Its largest turnout was 1,200 people, said volunteer Jesse Munkirs.
Munkirs has been involved with the event since its first year. He is among many dedicated church volunteers, including some men who grow beards once a year to play the part of the shepherds.
Many visitors, such as Korrin Ingalls, said they enjoy festivities that focus more on the true meaning of Christmas and less on the commercial aspect.
“We’re trying to make a point that Christmas is not so much about the presents, it’s more about Jesus Christ,” said Ingalls, who brought her four children to "Little Bethlehem."