“O Christmas Trees”
‘O Christmas Tree” is a well-known Christmas carol, but in Rome, all of Italy actually, it should be “O Christmas trees” as in plural, and in abundance as they’re everywhere along with the beautiful nativity scenes. Rome is a sea of brightly colored Christmas branches in the main piazza and along the cobblestone streets accompanied by breathtaking creches. As a matter of fact, there is even a major collection of over 100 nativities from around the world on display in Rome. Formally located in Piazza del Popolo or the Piazza of the People, it can now be found near the Vatican. This is in addition to the annual nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square which is now open for pilgrims to see and yes, it’s right next to the Vatican Christmas tree, as reported by our friends at the Catholic News Agency.
For some beautiful Advent reflections, and for more information on the meaning of the nativity and its origin, I think you’ll enjoy the Pope’s letter entitled “Admirabile Signum,” or “wonderful sign” in Latin. It was released earlier this month, with an emphasis on the much loved and well-known saint, St. Francis of Assisi who is credited with creating the first nativity scene in the Umbrian mountainside.
We Three Kings
Speaking of Christmas carols, one of my favorites has always been “We Three Kings.” I’ve always felt a strong connection to the Kings, or the “wise men from the East” who searched for the Christ child. Not because I am all that wise mind you, but perhaps because I was far away from my faith for years and it was a very long and arduous journey back home. I appreciate their courage in following the star to find Jesus. And so do the Italians.
The feast recognizing the Scriptural passages is known as the Epiphany and is quite a big deal in the Eternal City and all of Italy. A few years ago, I was in Rome during the Epiphany. I was heading toward St. Peter’s for the Sunday Angelus in hopes of getting my religious items blessed by the Pope before traveling back home to the U.S. I could not figure out why there was so much traffic and why our taxi was stuck in the middle of it. I was so concerned about missing the Angelus, I tossed some cash to the driver and started to run toward the Vatican.
As I made my way into St. Peter’s Square, I was practically trampled by the beautiful procession of horses, men and women in festive costumes, and countless musicians, paying tribute to Christ and the Kings. Although I have been to countless events at the Vatican, this one was quite special. Back home by December 26th, and especially come New Year’s Day, Americans are moving on to the Super Bowl as well as Valentine’s Day, and the Christmas decorations are long gone. Not in Italy. The Epiphany is a continuation of this marvelous season of joy.
Buon Natale e Buon Anno!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!