Christmas is celebrated with great significance and zeal all over the world. Though there are cultural and regional differences in the celebrations, the spirit and essence remains the same. Different countries may have different ways of celebrations but there are some prominent symbols of Christmas, like the Christmas tree, nativity scenes, midnight mass etc that do not change much. Vatican celebrates Christmas with the same zeal but, being home to the Pope, the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church, the celebrations in Vatican are more religious than joyous. Vatican receives a large number of pilgrims during Christmas season, who gather in the St. Peters Basilica and the St. Petersburg square to witness the midnight mass. The city of Vatican welcomes the season with a big Christmas tree and an elaborate nativity scene.
Christmas Celebrations in Vatican
The most important part of the Christmas celebration in Vatican is the midnight mass that starts at the St. Peter's Basilica on the Christmas Eve at around 10 PM. One has to obtain tickets (free) to enter into the basilica. A huge video screen is set up in the St. Peter's square for the benefit of those who could not obtain the tickets. The mass is telecast live across the world.
At around 10 AM on the 25th December, the Pope gives his blessings to all the people gathered at the St. Peter's square, from his apartment balcony in the Vatican. This blessing is called 'Urbi et Orbi Blessing' which literally translates into 'blessing to the city and to the world'. The Holy Father then delivers his Christmas message from the basilica's Loggia of Benediction by around noon. This is followed by his offering of apostolic blessing and Christmas greetings in 65 different languages.
Vatican Christmas Tree
The Vatican Christmas tree, also called the Saint Peter's Square Christmas tree, is erected every year during the Christmas season in the Saint Peter's Square, in front of St. Peter's Basilica. The tradition began in 1982 when Pope John Paul II, Polish by birth, introduced the northern European symbol of Christmas spirit in Rome. In Poland, there is a tradition of erecting Christmas tree but it was not observed in Italy till 1982.
The nativity scenes played out in the Vatican are usually big, with seventeen life-sized statues. Nine out of these seventeen statues were donated by Saint Vincent Pallotti for the nativity scene while the other eight were added in due course. The Italian province of Trentino, and the local council of a village of Tesero, offered thirteen wooden figures of animals and household utensils towards the nativity scene in 2006.