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Vatican Nativity scene is built from trees that fell during environmental catastrophe

This year's Vatican Nativity scene recreates a typical town from the Italian Alps. It comes from Scurelle, a small village with 1,400 inhabitants.

It is a tribute to the tradition dating back to the early 1900s. The house and stable are typical of the region's buildings from a century ago. The statues reflect popular characters. For example, the “cromaro” is a peasant who would travel through Europe as a merchant during the winter months. The cold of the Alps is rough, and the fields don't provide enough. That's why this farmer would have been obligated to leave town to put bread on the table for his family.

The children in this Nativity scene also play a leading role.

Scurelle City Hall

“The children of that time period contributed to the family's finances. For instance, they might help someone in the forest, like the boy in the Nativity scene. He is carrying a lantern to light the way for his father who is bringing home some firewood.”

A large part of the clothing on the 23 statues has been donated by the townspeople themselves. Some of the clothes belonged to their ancestors. Putting together the Nativity scene in St. Peter's has strengthened the town's unity.

Scurelle City Hall

“It has been an opportunity to reestablish the bonds between us. The act of contributing personal items to the Nativity scene has made us rediscover solidarity among us.”

A final peculiarity of the Vatican Nativity scene this year is the source of the wood. It is the result of an environmental catastrophe, Vaia. The storm hit Northeast Italy in 2018. The strong gusts of wind destroyed nearly 50,000 acres of forest in the Trento region. They also caused material damages and left eight people dead.

It isn't just a message to promote care for the environment. It is also a message of optimism, because from the wood of fallen trees, a scene carrying a Christmas message of hope has been built.