A Look at the Vatican Christmas Tree and Crèche

Vatican City decorates for Advent and Christmas much like Christians do in homes and parishes across the world, but on a slightly larger scale. Ashley Noronha, Relevant Radio® Vatican Correspondent, joined Morning Air® to give a look at this year’s Christmas tree and nativity scene.

The Vatican’s 85-feet tall Christmas tree was lit on December 5th in St. Peter’s Square. Each year the tree comes from a different location. “This year the tree comes from the centuries-old forest in Northern Italy—now these were the same areas that were particularly devastated by some terrible storms that we experienced here in November of 2018 and the winds were up to 200 kilometers an hour. So there were even entire forests that were completely razed to the ground as a result of it. Well this hearty 85-foot spruce managed to make it through and addition to it being gifted to the Vatican, about 40 trees are going to be replanted in that area,” explained Noronha.

2019 Vatican City Christmas Tree and Nativity Scene
Vatican City Christmas Tree Lighting, December 5 2019

The tree will be decorated with new “next generation” lights this year that are very energy-efficient and have a reduced impact on the environment. A German lighting company supplied the new lights.

A nativity scene is constructed next to the Christmas tree and is designed and created by a different artist each year. Construction begins over a month prior to the official unveiling at the start of the Advent season.

The 2018 crèche was made of sand, but this year it will be made completely out of wood. “It’s going to replicate the traditional northern Trentino-style buildings with wood shingle roofs, etc. … And with that nativity there are going to be twenty larger than life figures,” said Noronha.

The tree and nativity will be tied together by the same Northern Italian forests. Noronha explained, “Some of the decorations will include broken tree trunks that were salvaged from that forest that was so devastated in the 2018 storms.”

Pope Francis has recently emphasized the meaning and importance of the nativity scene in Christian life with his Apostolic Letter, Admirabile signum. In it, he encourages Catholics to carry on the beautiful tradition of displaying nativity scenes in their homes.

The Vatican Christmas tree and nativity scene will be displayed in St. Peter’s Square through the entire Christmas Season, which concludes with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord on January 12, 2020.

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Lindsey is a wife, mother, and contributing author at Relevant Radio. She holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Lindsey enjoys writing, baking, and liturgical living with her young family.