The Enigmatic Bethlehem Star: A Beacon of Christmas

Bethlehem Star, or Christmas Star, has long been one of the key elements of the traditional Christmas narrative. Every year, as the holiday season approaches, stars begin to twinkle not just in the night sky but also in our homes, Christmas trees, our festive lights, and even on Christmas cards and cookies. But why exactly are stars such a significant symbol of Christmas?

What is Bethlehem Star?

The term “Bethlehem Star” refers to the biblical Star of Bethlehem. The Bible’s account of the Star of Bethlehem is found in the Gospel of Matthew, specifically in Matthew 2:1-12. The passage describes how the Magi, following the star, arrived in Jerusalem and inquired about the newborn king of the Jews:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.’

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.'” Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Matthew 2:1-12

The significance of the Bethlehem Star on Christmas

The association of stars with Christmas stems from the Nativity story mentioned above, where a brilliant star guides the Magi (Wise Men) to the birthplace of Jesus It signifies guidance, hope, and the fulfillment of a divine prophecy.

During Christmas, the stars remind us of the miraculous birth of Jesus and the hope and light He brought into the world. This deep symbolism is why stars are so prominently featured in Christmas decorations and traditions, serving as a reminder of the holiday’s spiritual significance.

What does the Bethlehem Star look like?

There is still no clear conclusion about what the Star of Bethlehem actually looks like. It is not even known if it was a “star” as we know it. The Greek word “aster” translated as “star” usually refers to a star or celestial body, but in some places, it is also used to refer to angels (e.g. Revelation 12:4). That’s why people also put angel tree toppers on their Christmas trees.

Though, we have many designs that can represent the Star of Bethlehem.

First, a simple five-pointed star. You’ll often see it adorning the Christmas trees, festive decorations, and cookie designs.

Another popular design is the Moravian star, which originated in Saxony, Germany, around 1830 as a geometric craft project for schoolboys. A classic Moravian star features 26 points, but it can range from fewer points to as many as 100. The Moravian Church adopted the star to symbolize the Star of Bethlehem and often incorporated it into their nativity scenes.

Besides, the most traditional representation of the Star of Bethlehem is an elongated eight-point star. It mimics the shape of the cross, radiating beams of starlight from the center.

What is the difference between the Moravian star and the Bethlehem star?

The Moravian Star and the Bethlehem Star, while both associated with Christmas and symbolizing the Star of Bethlehem, have distinct characteristics and origins:


The Moravian Star originated in the 1830s at the Moravian Boys’ School in Niesky, Germany. It was initially used as a geometry lesson but soon became a symbol of Advent, Christmas, and the Epiphany within the Moravian Church.
While the Bethlehem Star is a biblical symbol associated with the Nativity story.


Moravian Stars are usually made from paper or plastic and have a distinctive shape with a polyhedral form, typically featuring 26 points (though the number can vary, with models having 20 to over 100 points). The points can be sharp or rounded.
Unlike the Moravian Star, the Bethlehem Star doesn’t have a specific, standardized design. It is often depicted in Christian art and Christmas decorations as a bright star with a long tail, resembling a comet, or as a simple five-pointed star. The representation varies significantly in art, literature, and decorations.


The Bethlehem Star is a powerful symbol of Christmas, representing divine guidance, hope, and the fulfillment of prophecy. Its appearance in the Nativity story has left an indelible mark on Christian tradition and culture.

As we celebrate the holiday season, the Bethlehem Star reminds us of the light of Christ that shines in our lives, guiding us on our journey of faith. It is a beacon of hope, illuminating the path to peace, love, and joy.

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