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1. The feast of Christmas, perhaps the most cherished by popular tradition, is full of symbols connected with the different cultures. Among all, the most important is surely the Nativity scene, as I had the opportunity to point out last Sunday.
2. Together with the Nativity scene, as is true here in St. Peter's Square, we find the traditional "Christmas tree." A very ancient custom, moreover, which exalts the value of life, as in winter the evergreen becomes a sign of undying life. In general, the tree is decorated and Christmas gifts are placed under it. The symbol is also eloquent from a typically Christian point of view: It reminds us of the "tree of life" (see Genesis 2:9), representation of Christ, God's supreme gift to humanity.
3. The message of the Christmas tree, therefore, is that life is "ever green" if one gives: not so much material things, but of oneself: in friendship and sincere affection, and fraternal help and forgiveness, in shared time and reciprocal listening.
May Mary help us to live Christmas as an opportunity to feel the joy of giving ourselves to brothers, especially to the neediest!
[After praying the Angelus, the Pope greeted the pilgrims present. Speaking in Russian, he said:]
Dear children of Beslan, I greet you on the occasion of the Nativity of Christ.
With great affection I welcome the children and youngsters from Beslan, Ossetia, guests with members of their family of the Discalced Carmelites of Trent. Beloved, may the kindness you are receiving from so many friends help you to overcome the wounds of your terrible past experience.
I greet the pilgrims present, especially the faithful of the parishes of Tarcisio and St. Frances Cabrini of Rome, and those from Taranto and Castellaneta. My thoughts go as well to the association "For One More Hope" of Verona.
Happy Sunday and Happy Christmas!
[Translation by ZENIT]