The world's biggest 'Christmas tree' was lit up for 2019 in the Italian city of Gubbio with Franciscan custodian of the Holy Land Father Francesco Patton having the honour of pressing the light-activation button from Bethlehem's Nativity grotto on Saturday. The ritual saw the 950 bulbs of the Christmas-tree shaped hillside lighting illumination sparkle into life to herald the countdown to... Еще Christmas.
«To turn on the world's biggest Christmas tree from the Nativity grotto, from Bethlehem evokes, I believe, themes of peace, of solidarity, of justice,» said Gubbio's Mayor Filippo Stirati.
«It strengthens a long-established relationship with Palestine. Most likely we will work towards an even closer association with the city of Bethlehem, we already talked about it with Bethlehem's mayor as well as with the foreign minister,» he added.
Father Francesco was presented a tablet with a direct link to the tree by a delegate from Gubbio to symbolise the strong ties between the two cities.
«Gubbio's [Christmas] tree was built in 1981 for the first time by a group of volunteers who came up with the idea of building a tree on the slopes of Mount Ingino to create visibility for the basilica of our holy patron,» said Giacomo Fumanti, Committee President of the group that builds Gubbio's Christmas tree every year.
The 'tree' kept on growing and in 1991 was recognised by Guinness as the largest 'Christmas tree' in the world, he added.
Gubbio's record-winning Christmas feature features 300 lights for the perimeter with 400 coloured light bulbs filling in the centre. The comet at the top of the tree has an amplitude of 1,000 square metres and is lit up by 250 lights. The 'tree' is 700 metres (2,296 feet) high and 450 metres (1,476 feet) wide, according to reports.
Hundreds of people gathered in the Italian city to witness the lighting ceremony where Bethlehem's mayor Anton Salman spoke to those present. The evening was topped off with fireworks and featured stalls, music and attractions in Gubbio's Quaranta Martiri Square.