Bethlehem is a city along the Lehigh River, split between both Northampton and Lehigh counties in the Lehigh Valley region of eastern Pennsylvania, in the United States. As of the 2020 census, Bethlehem had a total population of 75,781, making it the eighth largest city in Pennsylvania. Of this, 55,639 were in Northampton County and 19,343 were in Lehigh County.
Bethlehem lies in the center of the Lehigh Valley, a metropolitan region of 731 sq mi (1,890 km) with a population of 861,899 people as of the 2020 census, making it Pennsylvania’s third most populous metropolitan area and the 68th most populated metropolitan area in the U.S. Together with Allentown and Easton, the Valley includes Lehigh, Northampton, and Carbon counties in eastern and northeastern Pennsylvania and Warren County in northwestern New Jersey. Smaller than Allentown but larger than Easton, Bethlehem is the Lehigh Valley’s second-most populous city.
There are four general sections to Bethlehem: central Bethlehem, the south side, the east side, and the west side. Each of these sections blossomed at different times in the city’s development and each contains areas recognized under the National Register of Historic Places. ZIP codes that use the address Bethlehem totaled 116,000 in population in 2000. These ZIP codes include Bethlehem Township and Hanover Township.
The Norfolk Southern Railway’s Lehigh Line (formerly the main line of the Lehigh Valley Railroad) runs through Bethlehem heading east to Easton, Pennsylvania and across the Delaware River to Phillipsburg, New Jersey. The Norfolk Southern Railway’s Reading Line runs through Bethlehem and west to Allentown and Reading.
Bethlehem has a long historical relationship with the celebration of Christmas. The city was christened as Bethlehem on Christmas Eve 1741 by Nicolaus Zinzendorf, a Moravian bishop. In 1747, Bethlehem was the first U.S. city to feature a decorated Christmas tree. On December 7, 1937, at a grand ceremony during the Great Depression, the city adopted the nickname “Christmas City USA” in a large ceremony. It is one of several Lehigh Valley locations, including Emmaus, Egypt, and Allentown’s Jordan Creek, whose names were inspired by locations referenced in the Bible.
Bethlehem borders Allentown to its west and is 54 miles (87 km) north-northwest of Philadelphia and 87 miles (140 km) west of New York City.