VATICAN CITY — Walking toward the Vatican this morning, my colleague Cindy Wooden and I were surprised to see the Holy Family was no longer in St. Peter’s Square. Vatican workers were busily taking down the beautiful Christmas creche they had unveiled less than three weeks ago.
Also being dismantled was the 108-foot-tall Christmas tree. The tree will be recycled into toys and other things for children.
The same crane that had helped workers hang lights and thousands of silver and gold ornaments was again extended along this 120-year-old spruce fir.
We were surprised to see everything being packed up because traditionally the Nativity scene and tree stayed up until the Feb. 2 feast of the Presentation of the Lord.
A quick call to the offices governing Vatican City revealed that “it had been decided this year to take everything down at the end of the Christmas period.”
So it seems Jan. 11, the Baptism of the Lord, now marks the end of the Christmas period for the Vatican.
Even workers in the Vatican press office were busy carting away poinsettias, taking down smaller Christmas trees, and vacuuming up pine needles today.
Putting Christmas decorations away always makes me feel a little sad, so I think I’ll keep my tree up a few more weeks. It helps that it’s a live potted tree and super chilly in our house.
How long do readers usually keep their decorations up?
I’m a traditionalist when it comes to Christmas trees. I like to decorate it Christmas eve and take it down on Epiphany, January 6. A party is usually held on the 6th.
My mother’s family often spoke of burning the Christmas tree in the fireplace when they were children, and using embers from it to prepare the fire for Shrove Tuesday pancakes.
A nice custom which imparts great symbolic value to the tree beyond the Christmas season. It also helps to avoid the syndrome which often results , and can be extremely serious for some people, when the tree has to be taken down.
I’m so sad to see this new decision by the Vatican to take the tree down early. My tree and nativity are always up between Dec 24 and Feb 2nd. That way I keep Advent as Advent and the traditional Christmas Season (or Christmas Cycle as it was called until 1969) is celebrated in the appropriate context for the full 40 days. I’m not sure why the Pope would change the tradition that was brought back by the Great JPII, since he (Benedict) has shown to favor some of the other Pre-Vatican II traditions and practices. I for one will continue the tradition of celebrating Christmas and Epiphany for the full 40 days between Christmas and the Presentation.
Christmas ends on the Feast of the Baptismo of the Lord (01/09 new calendar or 01/13 old calendar) There is no reason to keep the decoration further than that…since It is not the decoration who keeps the faith. Christmas is always alive!
Tradition without a reason…it is superticious!