Vatican lights up Christmas Tree from Croatia
Tue Dec 17, 1:16 PM ET
By PETER W. MAYER, Associated Press Writer
VATICAN CITY - Golden lights twinkled on a fir from a Croatian forest in St. Peter's Square on Tuesday as the Vatican (news - web sites) inaugurated its Christmas tree with a ceremony attended by Croatia's president.
Dancers dressed in traditional Croatian folk costume women in white, green and blue frocks, men in embroidered waistcoats whirled to the tunes played by a group of fiddlers before a young boy switched on the lights.
The 28-meter (71-foot), seven-ton tree from the Gorski Kotar region was decorated with glittering strands of tinsel and a typical Croatian Christmas tree ornament glass balls containing red, heart-shaped sweets.
Croatian President Stjepan Mesic came to Rome to formally present Pope John Paul (news - web sites) II with the tree. John Paul did not attend the ceremony, but received the president Monday.
Countries vie for the prestige of having one of their towering evergreens picked to flank a life-sized creche scene in the square.
The celebration drew some 200 hundred people to the square, a few waving Croatian flags others clapping time with the music.
After their meeting the pontiff announced that next year he would visit Croatia, a mainly Roman Catholic country in the Balkans. The visit is expected to take place in May or June.
The 82-year-old Polish pope began the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in 1982, the first year the Vatican had a tree. For the four previous centuries, popes were Italian and Italy does not have a Christmas tree tradition.