VATICAN CITY – The Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square this year is a fir from the Ardennes forest of Belgium.
The 30-metre tree is 100 years old. It has a seven-metre diameter and weighs 14 tons. The tree was to be felled, along with others of the same forest, to allow for the growth of other nearby trees and plants, a communiqué from the Holy See noted.
The tree was set up to the right of the obelisk. It will be decorated in Vatican colours – gold and white – and lit up on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
The tradition of placing a Christmas tree and a Nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square goes back only to 1982; it was an initiative of Pope John Paul II.
Benedict XVI has followed this tradition. He has also highlighted the cultural and artistic value of Nativity scenes, saying they are not just a spiritual tradition.
St. Peter’s Nativity scene has nine figures that were part of a scene prepared by St. Vincent Palloti in 1842 in the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, located in the heart of Rome.
To these figures of the Holy Family, eight others were subsequently added, in particular, a traditional Polish family.
The Nativity scene is customarily inaugurated on Dec 24 and remains up until Feb 2, feast of the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem.
For the past 27 years, different regions of Italy and Europe have taken turns in donating the tree. This year’s tree will be used to make wooden sculptures, the sales of which will be given to the poor.