(From Vatican Radio)
Preparations are underway in St. Peter’s Square for the nativity scene and the Christmas tree which has been erected, as per tradition, in the middle of the Square.
This year’s tree is a 25 meter tall red spruce and is from Trento, in the north of Italy. In its original place, local schoolchildren have planted some 40 new spruce and larch seedlings to replace trees suffering from a parasite that had to be culled. At the end of the Christmas season, the wood from the tree will be used for charity.
The ornaments that will adorn it are ceramic, and have been made by children in hospitals across Italy who are receiving treatment for cancer and other illnesses.
The tree will also shine brightly thanks to the some 18,000 Christmas lights which have been especially chosen in respect of the environment: their LED technology allows for extremely low energy consumption.
The nativity scene is not visible yet but its figures and setting pay tribute to the people who are forced to flee their countries and undertake dangerous journeys across the sea. According to the International Organization of Migration over 3000 people have died in the Mediterranean this year, but the tally is thought to be higher as many vessels and sinkings go unrecorded.
Hailing from the island of Malta, the Nativity Scene will measure 19 meters in width, and it will feature 17 statues dressed in traditional Maltese costumes as well as a replica of a traditional “Luzzu” Maltese boat.
The boat not only represents tradition – fish and life – but also, unfortunately the realities of migrants who in these same waters cross the sea on makeshift boats to Italy.
Both the Nativity and the Christmas tree will be lit on December 9, and will remain illuminated until Sunday, January 8.