Josephs and Marys in search of a room at the inn this Christmas are being made an offer they can't refuse. A British hotel chain is promising free accommodation to couples who share their first names with the couple from the Christian Nativity story. Almost 30 Josephs and Marys had already signed up for the free night's stay at the Travelodge, said Shakila Ahmed, a spokeswoman for the hotel chain.
"The 'gift' of a free night's stay is to make up for the hotel industry not having any rooms left on Christmas Eve over 2000 years ago when the original 'Mary and Joseph' had to settle for the night in a stable," the company says on its Web site.
The offer is good at any one of the chain's 322 hotels in the United Kingdom, the Web site says. The couples must bring proof of identity and must prove that they are in a long-term relationship.
"If you satisfy the criteria, you get a free night in a family room for two adults and two children," Ahmed said. "There's also parking space for a donkey if needed," she joked.
Ahmed said the offer, which will run from Christmas Eve to Twelfth Night -- December 24 to January 5 -- had been very well-received.
"We've had a lot of interest. I think people like the fact that it resonates with the Nativity story at a time when the actual meaning of Christmas often becomes forgotten in festive overkill," she said.
Couples can register their names at a special e-mail address set up by Travelodge, which has hotels across the Britain, Ireland and Spain, Ahmed said.