Ukrainian pilgrims sang folk songs and carols and recalled the late Pope John Paul II's visit as the Vatican lit its Christmas tree in St. Peter's Square, a 25-meter (82-foot) pine from the Carpathian mountains in their country.
The tree was decorated with 2,500 gold and silver balls and figures of animals and toys. The ceremony Friday evening included a folk choir with children carrying giant pinwheels, a Christmas tradition in Ukraine.
Polish-born John Paul began the tradition of erecting a tall Christmas tree in the square in 1982; the Bavarian-born Pope Benedict XVI has continued it.
Archbishop Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, who served as a secretary to John Paul before returning to his homeland of Ukraine, said the tree was "to thank John Paul" for his 2001 visit.