After the birth of Jesus and the completion of the census, the village of Bethlehem returned to it's customary small population and Joseph was able to secure a cottage to move his young family into from the cave where they had taken shelter and where Jesus had been born.
On the eighth day, January 1 on our calendar, Mary and Joseph took Jesus to the synagogue in Bethlehem for circumcision and where he was officially given the name Jesus, told to Mary and Joseph by the angel.
The days and nights that followed would have seen Mary and Joseph settling into their new home. Whether they intended to remain in Bethlehem permanently or only chose to remain until they had fulfilled the requirements of the Law we are not told, perhaps even they were unsure. But the days and nights must have passed swiftly for the young couple, and especially for Mary adjusting to the care of an infant son, a young husband, and a home of her own.
As the days passed, the winter rains and occasional cold spell would have been interspersed with warm, sunny days. And as January grew to a close the almond trees burst into bloom, their fluffy pink and white clouds of blossoms dotting the landscape, the ground beneath now carpeted with green grasses nourished by the winter rains. And the fields were bathed in swaths of color from the winter wildflowers, delicate pinks and purples of primroses interrupted with streaks of bold red anemones. The final week of January would have seen Mary and Joseph planning the 2 hour walk up to Jerusalem on the 40th day, to visit the Temple and there to offer the sacrifice for the Levitical cleansing of Mary from childbirth and to present Jesus at the door of the House of God to pay the redemption due for first-born sons, as the Law required.
Take a short journey with the holy family from the small village of Bethlehem up to the city and see the countryside along the way.
January and February in Israel sees the dried, brown landscape turn green from the rains that begin in the fall. These first rains of the agricultural year soften the earth that has been baked hard and cracked by the unrelenting heat of the dry season and in the fall the farmers take to the fields to sow their crops that will grow over winter and be harvested in the spring, beginning with the first crop of barley harvested just in time for the Passover in March/April.
The luscious pink and frothy white clouds of the almond trees are set off by the carpet of green grasses as the landscape comes to life after the searing dry season.
Almond trees planted at the base of a rock wall edging a field has been a common sight in Israel for millennia. The rocks help to retain the precious moisture, slowing evaporation of the heavy dews which is the only source of moisture during the long hot dry season.
Almonds, like olives and figs, were often planted on terraced rocky hillsides, the stones helping to provide shade and moisture for the roots to insure survival to a family and national economy that was dependent on the produce of fields and orchards. Almond trees were often planted in kitchen gardens not only for nuts and for shade, but also for their delightful fragrance and as harbingers of the winter coming to an end and spring just around the corner. So precious was the almond tree, that the almond and it's flowers were used as decorative elements in the multi-branched candlestand that graced the Temple.
In late January the winter wildflowers carpet the fields and roadsides. The most common in the Judean hill country are the pink, lavender, and white primroses, their delicate beauty adding a wispy, fairy tale setting to the countryside. And here and there a bold stand of red anemone add drama and contrast. The almond trees and these wildflowers would have been in full bloom as Mary and Joseph made the 5 mile trek from Bethlehem to Jerusalem on the 40th day, February 2, 0004 B.C.