The Italian Almanac

Christmas Tree

Italian News - December 18

An 11-year-old Austrian boy who saved the life of a young relative last summer lit a towering Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square on Saturday, giving Vatican City a festive air.

Juergen Lengauer, who last summer saved a 2-year-old relative from drowning in a pool, lit the 100-foot fir from the Upper Austrian town of Eferding. The tree glowed yellow as a choir sang in German just after sunset.

The tree, along with a nativity scene, will be the Vatican's centerpiece for tourists and pilgrims who flock there during the holidays.

Earlier, Pope Benedict XVI thanked Austrian pilgrims for the gift of the fir and 32 smaller trees to decorate his apartment and rooms used by the cardinals, the Swiss Guards and police assigned to the Vatican.

Benedict, as had been expected, did not attend the lighting ceremony.