Christmas begins in Rome: Vatican lights tree and inaugurates Nativity scene

For another year, everything was in order in St. Peter's Square for one of the events that begin Christmas in the Eternal City. 

The Vatican has lit its Christmas tree and presented its Nativity scene. First, though, Christmas carols had to be heard.

A choir from Montevergine, from which the display emanates, and a band from the Polish Forestry Body, where the tree comes from, sang the songs. 

The Nativity scene was donated by the Italian abbey of Montevergine and was built by one of the most important workshops in Naples. According to Neapolitan tradition, the scene is placed among the ruins of a temple. 

These little ones brought the ceremony a tender note. The children from Montevergine exchanged gifts with kids with cancer and other youth from Spoleto and Norcia, two communities hit by severe earthquakes a few months ago. 

As the afternoon wound down and the moment grew close, the wait was enlivened by more music.

…Until the Nativity scene was lit. 

Minutes later, the tree.

The fir, which measures 92 feet, was donated to the Vatican by Poland. In recognition of this gift, the band played the Polish national anthem. 

It's decorated with clay ornaments made by children admitted to the cancer departments of various Italian hospitals.

The Nativity scene and tree will remain lit in St. Peter's Square until January 7, 2018, the day the Church celebrates the Baptism of the Lord. 

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