Christmas Tree under erection at Vatican

Posted On December 13, 2006

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Vatican Christmas Tree, the tallest ever, arrives from Southern Italy.

The Pope’s Christmas tree the tallest to date to adorn the Vatican is finally in position in St. Peter’s Square after bad weather and other problems delayed its arrival for more than a week.

“This morning I saw the tree from my window,” Pope Benedict XVI told several thousand people gathered in St. Peter’s Basilica for the weekly public audience Wednesday.

The 109-foot fir tree from the mountains of Sila National Park in Calabria, southern Italy, arrived during the night. Thick fog encountered en route was the last of a series of delivery problems. Workers had problems cutting down the tree because of heavy winds. Then they had to figure out how to hoist the 9-ton tree onto the helicopter that carried it on the first leg of the trip to the Vatican.

“We were on the Sila for three days,” Eugenio Ripepe, supervisor of the delivery, said as he described the transportation difficulties.

The tradition of erecting a Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square, next to a larger-than-life Nativity scene, was introduced by Pope John Paul II in 1982. According to Vatican statistics, the trees, which over the past 24 years have come from different European countries or regions of Italy, have never surpassed 105 feet, making this year’s tree the tallest. The tree will be decorated and finally lit on Christmas Eve.

Light them up

The biggest private collection of Christmas lights and decorations on the island was lit up last night, producing a dazzling display of colour.

Two homes in the village of Kiti, in the Larnaca district, Cyprus, have been decked out with 36,000 different decorations, including 10,000 lights.

Among the highlights of the collection is an aeroplane coming in to land on an illuminated landing strip over a swimming pool, and a huge mechanical snowman blowing out snow. There is also a 12-foot Father Christmas as well as a huge illuminated crib.

Britons Peter Holman and Valerie Loughrey are the two people who have decorated their homes on Mykonos Street, with Holman yesterday saying he had shipped the collection, valued at £5,000, to Cyprus three years ago when he moved to the island from Milton Keynes.

“At the front of my property, there is a box where people can leave donations,” he said. “The money raised will be used to help the local elementary school and the community in general.”

The 65-year-old explained that he has been decorating his home ever since he moved here, carrying on the tradition he began back in the UK six years ago.

“Word has spread and for the last couple of years, coaches carrying people from Larnaca Airport have been making detours to see the houses,” he said.

The lights, which took ten days to put up, will be coming down on January 6. Until then, they will be switched on daily between 5 and 11pm. They run on 40 12-volt transformers.

When asked about the electricity bill, Holman chuckled. “It’s actually not too bad,” he responded. “Last year cost me £78, but I expect to pay a little more this time.”

In the glow of Christmas

Posted On December 12, 2006

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Giant, glowing Christmas beetles have invaded the State Library of Queensland at South Bank, Australia.

Queensland College of Art student Elishia Whitchurch said the plague of about 46, 30cm long copper beetles were installed around the entry of the library after she won a competition to design Christmas decorations for the newly renovated building.

“The State Library came to Uni and asked for submissions for festive decorations, but they wanted them to be inclusive, and not specifically about one religion but something that all Queenslanders could relate to” Ms Whitchurch, said.

“So I thought about when as a child I would go to my grandparents’ house on the school holidays for Christmas, and there were heaps of these beetles stuck to the screen door. They would get into my hair and really freak me out. But they were a strong memory I had about Christmas as a child” she added.

The sculptures have a slightly iridescent glow during the day and light-sensitive LEDs come on at dusk to light the beetles from underneath.

Take 7 > Wreaths

More Bo by Bo Concept > Ultra chic and ultra stylish are the words that fit this wreath’s description. If you’re a fan of glitter but not in the mood to go overboard with your door decoration, this one is definitely for you. Not too big, not too small, it’s a distinctive embellishment that would work better on light coloured front doors. A bit pricey but Bo’s products are known to last, like, forever. Price: £49.

Terrano Mobili > When I asked the nice lady at Terrano Mobili if they have any wreaths this year, it came as a surprise when she handed me a head. What an excellent idea! If you’re tired of the same old thing every year and need a change, I suggest you hurry to Terrano and bag yourself a Father Christmas. The detail on this decoration is unbelievable and worth every penny! Price: £25 (Terrano has a 25% discount on all products until the end of December).

Habitat > Habitat always begs to differ in whatever they do and this year is no exception. If you’re anything like me and love everything shiny and bright for the holidays, then take a look at this one. The wreath is made up of tiny lights, but you do need to plug it in. Although you’ll probably need to tuck the wire away to the side of the door, it’s a joy to look at and people will know you’re well in the spirit. Price: £23.

Debenhams > It’s the store we all love for it’s variety and especially now that it’s that time of year. The store is packed with Christmas goodies and decorations and their wreaths are to die for. Despite my eagerness for strange, modern decorations, I felt this one was the cutest of the lot. Maintaining the traditional wreath design, the base is actually made of soft wooden branches and it’s adorned with miniature figures of snowmen and Father Christmas. Simple yet clever, I would definitely hang this one on my front door. Price: £10.

Ozi > One of those rare wonders that provide women with lovely, elegant, handmade decorations for their home, Ozi is a store you would absolutely love. Shelves packed with all sorts of candles and bowls full of tiny decorations, everything is handmade and that includes the wreaths. Out of all the wonderful ones there I picked out this one because it was the only one that had a welcome sign on it. But that’s not the only reason; if you take a look at it, you will notice the beautiful detailed bows and gold netting that make it an eye-catching piece. Price: £25. Tel: 22 487164.

Warehouse > Very similar to Ozi, this is also one of those shops that stock beautiful ornaments for the home and the cheapest handmade candles I’ve ever seen. But come Christmas, they bring out every decoration item under the sun that can give a house that special holiday touch. The wreaths are magnificent and again handmade; this one is one of those classic beauties with touches of gold and ivory for those of you who prefer more earthy tones than modern. Price: £26. Tel: 22 329798.

Diakosmos > I fell in love with this one-of-a-kind wreath as soon as I saw it. Of course, you could say that it doesn’t even look like a wreath but it’s perfect for those of you who want to avoid Santa Claus, reindeer, snowmen and anything usual hanging on your front door. This is unusual, very artistic and would make an outstanding impression on both your visitor and you as it is ridiculously cheap! Gorgeous and cheap? All I can say is wow! Price: £15. Tel: 26 272414.

Promises to dress up Bethlehem for Christmas

Posted On December 11, 2006

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The Islamic group Hamas may be in charge, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be Christmas this year: the cash-strapped Hamas government is promising $50,000 (euros 38,000) to dress up Jesus’ traditional birthplace for the holiday, more than twice the amount spent in previous years.

With just two weeks until Christmas, Bethlehem is only sparsely decorated. Bethlehem Mayor Victor Batarseh, a churchgoing Catholic from a leftist party, said Saturday he won’t start decorating until he has the money in hand.

Last year, only about 2,500 foreign visitors came on Christmas, but he’s counting on the usual busloads of Christians from Arab towns in Israel to boost turnout. Before the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in 2000, Bethlehem drew more than 90,000 pilgrims a month.

A few neon stars are nailed to storefronts on the main streets. The only decoration on the Lutheran Christmas Church in a busy market area is spray-painted graffiti below the pointed steeple that reads “Islamic Jihad”.

In Manger Square, next to the Church of the Nativity, built over Jesus’ traditional birthplace, only two of six souvenir shops and a small cafe were open on a recent afternoon. Many other nearby shops were closed as well. A few tourists who sat outside a cafe, braving the dreary weather, were thronged by peddlers trying to sell olive wood crucifixes.

Local businesses are suffering. Abir Karram, who sells traditional hand-embroidered Palestinian dresses, can no longer afford to pay the 700 shekel (US$115) monthly rent for her workshop. Two years ago, she had 30 women working part time for her, designing and embroidering gowns using ancient patterns. Now she has no workers.

Karram and other merchants say six years of economic hardship during the violence, including Israeli travel bans, have been compounded by an international economic boycott of the government, imposed 10 months ago when Hamas came to power. The group has struggled to pay salaries to 165,000 public servants, who are the backbone of the economy.

“The wall stopped tourists and Arabs from Israel,” she said, referring to the separation barrier, which is meant to stop Palestinian suicide bombings, but also cuts across Bethlehem’s main trade artery. Now people here have no salaries. Its like a well that finished drawing water,” Karram said.

The economic squeeze has driven away growing numbers of Christians, already a minority of 35 percent in this town of 30,000.

Bethlehem resident Mike Salman, an amateur chronicler of Christian affairs, said about 20 percent of the town’s 1,000 Catholic families have left in the past six years. Salman said he’s seen a similar rate of emigration from other Christian denominations. A 2004 UN report estimated about 10 percent of Christians had left.

Festive cheer promise for Bethlehem

Posted On December 11, 2006

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BETHLEHEM, West Bank > Militants may be in charge, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be Christmas this year: the cash-strapped Hamas government is promising $50,000 to dress up Jesus’ traditional birthplace for the holiday, more than twice the amount spent in previous years.

Yet even the extra cash, if Hamas pays up, may not be enough for Bethlehem, hit hard by the last six years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting. The biblical town is now walled in by Israel’s West Bank separation barrier, poverty is deepening and Christians are leaving Bethlehem in droves.

Palestinian Tourism Minister Joudeh Morkos has modest expectations. Last year, only about 2,500 foreign visitors came on Christmas, but he’s counting on the usual busloads of Christians from Arab towns in Israel to boost turnout. Before the outbreak of the Palestinian uprising in 2000, Bethlehem drew more than 90,000 pilgrims a month.

With just two weeks for Christmas, Bethlehem is only sparsely decorated. Bethlehem Mayor Victor Batarseh, a churchgoing Catholic from a leftist party, said he won’t start decorating until he has the money in hand.

A few neon stars are nailed to storefronts on the main streets. In Manger Square, next to the Church of the Nativity, built over Jesus’ traditional birthplace, only two of six souvenir shops and a small cafe were open. Many other nearby shops were closed as well. A few tourists who sat outside a cafe, braving the dreary weather, were thronged by peddlers trying to sell olive wood crucifixes. Local businesses are suffering.

The economic squeeze has driven away growing numbers of Christians, already a minority of 35 per cent in this town of 30,000. Hamas’ generous promise of funding has drawn mixed reactions among local Christians.  

Selections Christmas 2006 for the festive dinner table

“Selections Christmas 2006” for the festive dinner table

A dark green tablecloth, red placemats and napkins, silver-plated candlesticks, clear crystal wine goblets for wine, red for water, and crockery with a Christmas theme.

The Christmas Season is almost upon us. Already bazaars are being held and shop windows being decorated. An exhibition dedicated to “Art de la Table” is being organized for this weekend by the mother-and-daughter decorating team of Eleni Aroni and Athina Aroni-Kanta of the design firm Kleomenous 9 SA, at the Athens Plaza Hotel in Syntagma Square, in downtown Athens.

“Selections Christmas 2006” includes crystal ware, china, silver, objets d’art, jewelry, antiques, furniture, carpets and other decorative pieces. Visitors to the exhibition, held in conjunction with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Association, are invited to make a contribution to the association’s fund. A lottery will also be held for the same purpose.

Semeli and GAEA will be providing wine and appetizers. Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

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