(ANSA) - Vatican City, December 16 - The switching on of the lights on the giant fir in front of St Peter's Basilica this weekend signals the unofficial start of Christmas in the Vatican .
The 30-metre tree from the forests of northern Austria arrived in the Vatican on December 8 and technicians then spent several days erecting it and decorating it with lights ahead of Saturday's inauguration ceremony .
The tradition of having a giant tree in St Peter's Square was started in 1982 by the current pope's predecessor, John Paul II, along with that of the nativity scene. Over the last 23 years the honour of donating the tree has gone to snowy regions in Italy and in countries such as Romania and the Czech Republic .
The person chosen to flick the switch this year was Juergen Lengauer, an 11-year-old Austrian boy who earned the right by saving his little brother from drowning when he fell into a swimming pool .
Weeks of work on the life-size nativity scene which traditionally stands near the tree are also coming to an end, completing the customary Christmas scene in St Peter's Square .
The nativity scene, or 'crib' at the foot of the obelisk in the square is also rapidly taking shape and is expected to be completed within a few days .
When finished, the overall scene will cover 400 square metres. As well as the stable in the centre, housing the figures of Mary and Joseph, there will also be a range of secondary figures and scenes arranged around it .
Saturday, December 17, 2005
The lights are on...