glh bethlehem400

Grace Livingston Hill wrote several Christmas-themed novels and short stories. One of the most common events in those stories are the "Bethlehems" that her characters seem to whip up out of nothing—bits of crepe paper; a noah's ark set; an electric star; and blocks for those little flat-roofed houses with the outside staircases.


There were "chalk-drawing" Bethlehems, too. Grace was skilled at illustrating sermons wth this long-forgotten art. We use all sorts of multimedia presentations today, but our generation didn't invent this stuff—chalk drawings did the same thing and required much more talent than just pasting some clip art into a power point slide!

Well, these creations were not works of fiction, as I discovered looking through some of Grace's photo albums. In one of them (it was one of those great old albums with the black paper pages), I turned the page and just stopped. There it was! It was just as she described it, right down to the wooly lambs on the hillside.

This was taken in Grace's home in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania. A photo of the Christmas tree a few pages away is marked "about 1930".

How many "Bethlehems" are there? I know of a few. Do you know of any I've missed? Email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  • "The Story of a Whim" (serial later published in book form, 1903)
  • "Something Quite Forgotten" (1932 - short story in "Miss Lavinia's Call")
  • "The Christmas Bride" (novel, 1934)
  • "The Substitute Guest" (novel, 1936)
  • "Stranger Within the Gates" (novel, 1939)
  • "Astra" (novel, 1941)