Vatican Christmas tree to be recycled into toys

The Vatican's tallest Christmas tree will be recycled for the benefit of needy children.

Gregorio Borgia/AP
Shining in the darkness: The Vatican has been erecting a Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square since 1982. This year's is the tallest on record, and will be recycled.

As I was thinking about Christmas and trees, this news caught my eye: According to Reuters, "the largest Christmas tree ever to be placed in St Peter’s Square in Rome was lit on Saturday and Vatican officials said its wood will be recycled to make toys for needy children."

The Norway spruce is approximately 109 feet high (33 meters), about 120 years old, and came from Gutenstein, southern Austria.

Does it make you sad that a tree that old was cut down? One blog reports that it was part of a forest rejuvenation project.  "Its felling was part of the region’s regulated forestry program aimed at thinning selected trees to make way for new growth."

Although news reports mentioned toys being made from the recycled tree, Catholic News Service gave more details. Quoting the Vatican newspaper, it reported that the wood from the tree "would be given to several companies that make 'semi-finished' products for children, including benches and gazebos for schoolyards or parks, as well as toys, boxes and frames. The companies’ rough work will be given to schools and other institutions that run children’s workshops, and the kids themselves will paint and varnish the objects..."

I had no idea that the Vatican had a number of webcams, including a couple that show the decorated tree in St. Peter's Square (although you have to look pretty hard to see it).

The tree is decorated with 2,000 lights and about as many ornaments. No word on how many people were needed do the decorating and how long it took them. A Nativity scene will be added Christmas Eve.

Actually, the big tree is one of 40 -- all smaller, all from Austria -- that will decorate Vatican grounds this Christmas season.

Reuters also noted that the decision to recycle the main tree's wood "was the Vatican’s latest effort to go green. Last month it activated a large system of solar panels on the roof of its audience hall and announced an ambitious plan that could one day make it an alternative energy exporter."

The tree is an excellent example of beauty, sustainability, and generosity -- what the world needs.

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