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It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...in the Vatican

December 13, 2012
When Christmas is near, we all become traditionalists. Even the most anti-establishment types among us are horrified by attempts to alter our treasured rituals.
As one example, Toronto shoppers were aghast at the unveiling of the modernized Christmas tree in the Eaton Centre shopping mall. Replacing the traditional, Swarovski-bedazzled faux-fir of years past, this year’s hot pink eyesore resembles Lady Gaga’s spaceship. Nostalgic shoppers have flooded the Eaton Centre’s Facebook page with pleas for the old tree to return.
Meanwhile, residents of Guelph, Ontario were outraged when the Stone Road Mall eliminated its nativity scene, ostensibly in the interest of saving space. A grassroots campaign quickly succeeded at restoring the nativity scene, along with the mall’s reputation. Guelph-native Cardinal Thomas Collins was among a large crowd who gathered there to celebrate the Holy Family’s return.
The Vatican is wisely playing it safe with its Christmas décor, but there is still something new to see in St. Peter’s Square. This year, the backdrop of the nativity scene was modeled after the terrain of the “sassi” in Matera, Italy. Famed for its ancient buildings hewn from the steep mountainside, the sassi looks like Jerusalem did 2000 years ago. As such, Matera has been a stand-in for the holy city in the making of films like “The Passion of the Christ”. The rock-like structure in St. Peter’s Square will display over 100 terracotta figures.
Just as the nativity scene changes every year, so does the origin of the Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square. This season, a 78-foot silver fir was donated by the Molise region of Italy, 200 kilometres north of Rome. The previous tree was hauled from Ukraine.
You can watch the lighting of the Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square live on Salt + Light. Tune in to S+L TV or online via our web stream this Friday at 10:30 am ET / 7:30 am PT, repeating at 9:00 pm ET / 6:00 pm PT. This is one of many live events that S+L will broadcast during the coming month, including Christmas Eve Mass on December 24 and the Pope’s Urbi et Orbi blessing the following day.

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