The city is full of tourists and visitors during this time, which is why the hotels, bars, restaurants, and leisure services look so lively. Similar to Italian Christmas, in Vatican City also the celebration starts on 8th December. December 8th is celebrated as the day of Immaculate conception . This day is celebrated to honor the belief of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The day is celebrated with holy masses, firework shows, processions and traditional feasts.
A very popular tradition Novena can be witnessed here, Novena is known as the beginning of eight days celebration prior to Christmas day. During this time children dressed as shepherds go home to home singing and reciting Christmas poems to honor the journey of the shepherds to the manger.
Another interesting custom is presepio. A presepio is a nativity scene of the manger with figures like Mary, Joseph, babies Jesus, the Wise Men, animals, and barn. Nativity scene or crib can vary in sizes but these presepio can be seen everywhere during this time.
Several feet high pyramid shaped wooden frame with several shelves can also be seen. They are called ceppo. This "Tree of Light", is decorated with ribbons, streamers and sparkly ornaments.
An Italian character called La Befana who is similar to Santa Claus is very popular among kids. It is said that on Christmas Eve a kindly old witch called La Befana goes house to house leaving gifts and toys for children.
In Vatican City people observe a fast prior to Christmas day. The fast is broken with a feast along with family members and friends. Those who are not fasting, eat a meal devoid of meat on Christmas day. A huge Christmas tree is placed in St. Peter s Square in Vatican and a huge nativity scene of the manger with various figures including Animals, Mary and Baby Jesus is unveiled on Christmas Eve.
In Vatican City extraordinary and exclusive masses and gatherings are held to honor the birth anniversary of Messiah. An extraordinary midnight mass is held inside the St. Peter s Basilica. The ceremony is performed by the Pope who is the spiritual leader of Christian people. The Pope recites a holiday reading from the central balcony of the Basilica. The Pope prays for the betterment of humankind and reminds people about the message of love and brotherhood.
Live coverage is done for this grand event, large screen televisions are also installed in front of St. Peter s Square so general public can see the midnight mass live.
During Christmas season, thousands of tourists from many countries visit St. Peter s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel; here, they wait patiently for many hours to catch a glimpse of the Pope. It is an exciting experience to witness those masses and gatherings along with a huge crowd from every part of the world.
With all those strikingly beautiful decorations and firework shows, the entire Vatican City becomes bright, attractive and lively. Streets, restaurants, and major Christmas attractions are full of tourists in the Christmas season.