This year’s Christmas tree and Nativity scene in Saint Peter’s Square will be inaugurated and lit up on 9 December and will highlight several issues such as care for the environment, the sick and migrants. A communique from the governing office of Vatican City said the 25 metre-high spruce tree for 2016 will come from the region of Trentino in Northern Italy and when it’s cut down local school students will plant nearly 40 new spruce and larch seedlings in a nearby area to replace trees suffering from a parasite that had to be culled.
It said the tree will be adorned with handmade ornaments featuring drawings made by children undergoing treatment for cancer and other illnesses at several Italian hospitals.
Measuring 19 metres in width, this year’s giant Nativity scene will feature 17 statues dressed in traditional Maltese costumes as well as a replica of a traditional “Luzzu” Maltese boat.
In its communique, the Vatican City’s governing office said this 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.
On 9 December shortly before the tree-lighting ceremony, Pope Francis will receive in audience the designer of the Nativity scene, artist Manwel Grech, representatives from Trent and Malta as well as several children who designed the Christmas tree ornaments.
The tree will remain in Saint Peter’s Square until the Feast of the Lord’s Baptism on 8 January 2017.