BALA — You’ve heard about it, or maybe you’ve been on it years ago.
Bala’s free Trek to Bethlehem this Saturday night (Dec. 1), while not the biggest or best-kept secret in this part of Central Ontario, is certainly a festive highlight in a busy holiday season in the tiny West Muskoka community.
It takes you back over 2,000 years to what it was like to make that pilgrimage to Bethlehem to register for the Census.
Everyone in town takes part someway in the Christmas story— Christian or not.
Whether it’s turning off street lights, sprucing up old sets for the dozen stops along kilometre-long walk or trucking in a dozen livestock, all of Bala is involved one way or the other.
Wood is being gathered for camp fires, torches are being filled with paraffin to light the way.
This week there are dozens preparing fill the luxurious market to overflowing with rich foods and merchandise. Centurions are polishing their breast plates, tax collectors are checking account to see has paid their share of denarii.
Angels are rehearsing their songs for on high, the three wise men are setting the GPSs on the far star and the leper is licking his wounds in anticipation.
The dozen guides are rehearsing favourites lines from their running monologue, as they walk groups of 10 or so from the Community Centre out and around the live scenes to the stable birthplace, where Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus await all — rain, snow or cold.
And the actors and performers had all that and more.
But they toil through in a labour of love.
That includes the choir leading the sing-along, beforehand, who keep you warm and entertained while you wait for a guide.
And the organizers who take donations and put you into small groups, so you can hear the Biblical nativity story as guides take on you on a journey to follow the star in the west.
It’s the ultimate way to explain “The Reason for the Season.”
And all free, with donations welcome.
It’s a community event, a celebration of togetherness, a sense of pride.
Something really to experience; not to be missed.
Locally, it’s like Muskoka’s Mecca. Once in your lifetime you should make the trek to Bala for the Trek to Bethlehem.