In 1741, on Christmas Eve, a little band of Moravian settlers gathered in a crude log cabin, which they had built on the banks of the Monocacy Creek, near where it joins the Lehigh River.
The settlers had gathered in this, their first house (now the site of the Hotel Bethlehem), to worship as was the custom of their faith. The singing of the old Moravian hymn, “Not Jerusalem, Lowly Bethlehem!” so inspired them and their patron-leader Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf, that they decided to name their New World home … Bethlehem.
In 1938, the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce decided to claim an alternate moniker for its bustling community of industry and 62,000 people – The Christmas City.
This year, Bethlehem commemorated the 75th anniversary of that new name with a kinetic typography competition, using the text of an announcement speech made by then Chamber President Vernon K. Melhado.
Attached to this story is the winning video produced by Kathleen Kunsman.
Here is what Melhado had to say:
"We the citizens of Bethlehem, feel that the Bethlehem of Pennsylvania is the traditional Christmas city of state and country. We do not say this to exclude a single American community from the Christmas spirit. Massachusetts does not exclude Arizona from the spirit and observance of Thanksgiving, nor does Philadelphia begrudge to other communities the commemoration of Independence Day. But Massachusetts can at the same time share Thanksgiving and remember that in Thanksgiving it was founded. And the cities which created our government can share our government and remember its origin in the deliveration of the creating cities. So, we in Bethlehem do not claim that Bethlehem created Christmas. Nor do we do anything but admire and appreciate the Christmas spirit of our neighboring cities and towns in our great Nation.
"We do not say Bethlehem created Christmas. What we say is that Christmas created Bethlehem.
“Our Bethlehem – The Bethlehem of the New World- has in its very name a tradition of hope upon which rests the thesis of Christianity. Add to this the traditions associated with the naming of our Bethlehem and you cannot help but realize that here is a community which must not fail to remember the circumstances of it’s birth.”