Every December 3th in the lead-up to Christmas, St Peter’s Square plays host to a commissioned piece of art representing the Nativity scene – known as a presepe in Italian. The ceremony is also accompanied by turning on the lights of a giant Christmas tree.
This year’s presepe is particularly stunning, carved in wood by eleven artisans from the Friuli Venezia region of northern Italy over the course of the preceding two years.
The global tradition is reflected this year by a further 100 smaller presepi that are placed in the colonnades surrounding the Piazza, which have been contributed from all over the world.
The cheerfully lit tree in the piazza, meanwhile, is a vast 100 feet (30 meters) high, and was transported from a forest near the village of Rosello in the neighboring Abruzzo region.
By tradition, the presepe was the invention of St Francis of Assisi in the year 1223, who was moved by a visit to the Holy Land to create a visual representation of the event. The tradition of creating nativity scenes spread throughout the Christian world.
All the presepi and the giant Christmas tree remain in the square for all to visit, until the celebration of the feast of the Baptism of the Lord on January 8th.