By Vatican News staff writer
The virus has not stopped the spirit of Christmas, today ,more than ever, it is important to remain united and empathise with our sisters and brothers until we are able to return to life as we know it.
This is precisely what symbolises the Vatican's Christmas display this year more than others: hope, trust, love, family, and the awareness that Jesus will come among his people to save and console them.
On 11 December at 4.30 p.m., in compliance with anti covid-19 regulations, as is custom, the Nativity scene, donated by the Italian town of Castelli, the spearhead of the ceramic industry since the 16th century, and the Christmas tree, a 28m high majestic spruce (Picea abies) from Kočevje, in Slovenia, will be inaugurated.
The ceremony will be presided over by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello and Bishop Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, respectively President and Secretary General of the Governorate of Vatican City State. On the same day, in the morning, the delegations from Castelli and Kočevje will be received in audience by Pope Francis for the official presentation of the gifts.
The nativity scene
The Monumental Nativity Scene is made up of ceramic statues. It is a work created by the pupils and the teachers of the Art Institute "F.A. Grue", the current state art high school for design, which, in the decade 1965-1975, dedicated its teaching activity to the Christmas theme.
St. Peter's Square will see only part of the fragile collection, made up of 54 statues, exhibited.
The spruce comes from Kočevje, a town on the Rinža river. The region Kočevsko is one of the Slovenian territories where nature is most intact, considering that the forests cover 90% of its territory. Since ancient times it has been a symbol of fertility and in popular tradition it is often used in occasion of ceremonies as for the feast of the 1st of May or for the Christmas solemnity.
The tallest spruce tree in Europe, "Sgermova smreka" measures 61,80 metres and is located on the Pohorje massif in Slovenia. It is about 300 years old, with a perimeter of 3 meters and 54 centimetres and a diameter of over one metre.
The tree and the Nativity scene will remain on display until the end of Christmas time, which coincides with the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, Sunday 10 January 2021.