On Saturday at 5pm in St. Peter's Square, the traditional lighting of the Vatican Christmas tree will take place. The 2023 nativity scene will also be unveiled, which this year comes from the town of Greccio, Italy.
This nativity scene has a special significance: it commemorates the 800th anniversary of the first one in history that was created by St. Francis of Assisi.
The tree is over 80 feet tall. And when the Christmas season is over, its wood will be used to make toys to be distributed by Caritas Internationalis.
Pope Francis does not usually attend this ceremony, but every year he meets that same morning with the delegations in charge of its presentation. He does so in the Paul VI Audience Hall, where there is also a nativity scene.
The tree and the manger are two signs that continue to fascinate the young and old alike. The tree, with its lights, reminds us of Jesus, who comes to illuminate our darkness, our existence, often enclosed in the shadows of sin, fear and pain.
It is a tradition for the Pope to visit the tree and the nativity scene in the square. Usually, the date chosen is the last day of the year. On December 31, Pope Francis goes out into the street to greet those present and contemplate these two symbols of Christmas.