I popped over to the Vatican on Friday, the day before the night before Christmas, to pick up my ticket for Christmas Eve Mass with the Pope.
Everything was bustling outside St. Peter's. Workers were erecting a very large nativity scene beside the enormous Christmas tree in the centre of Piazza San Pietro. However, it was top secret, it seems; screens blocked almost all of the work from prying eyes, thought I caught a glimpse....
Folks waiting in line to pass security to enter St. Peter's were shedding their coats as December 23 was very sunny and warm -- at least 15 degrees C and likely more in the marble-enclosed piazza. Beautiful!
Inside the massive basilica, large areas were roped-off and chairs set out for the massive crowd due to arrive as early as 6 p.m. for the 10 p.m. Mass.
I plan to arrive at least 3 hours early to be sure I get a chair. Helpfully, the Vatican staff warns that having a ticket to Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's is no guarantee that one will actually get inside! Such crowds are expected that many ticket holders will still have to stand outside in the piazza, watching Mass on giant screens.
I suspect that would NOT be comfortable. On the other hand, I may end up peeing my pants before this is over -- not from the excitement of Mass in St. Peter's with the Pope, but simply because of the very long wait. (I'll be there alone so I won't risk losing my seat by leaving it!)
A lively manger scene is also in place in a side chapel of St. Peter's, featuring a lot of animals that one would expect to see around a manger.
I had to smile at this poor shepherd, blown away by the glory of the angel bringing the Good News! The sheep looks rather surprised as well.
And, of course, the tiny cradle for Baby Jesus lies empty, waiting for tonight.
Merry Christmas, Buon Natale, happy holidays to all!