Dec. 7 - Even as the Vatican Christmas tree is lowered into position in St. Peter's Square, the festive spirit in Italy is being dampened by concerns over the economic crisis. Hayley Platt reports.
A giant Christmas tree is erected in the Vatican's St. Peter's Square. However, even in these parts the festive spirit has been tempered by ongoing concern over Europe's economic crisis. Luciana Franchi is a pensioner living in Rome. (SOUNDBITE) (Italian) PENSIONER LUCIANA FRANCHI SAYING: "We'll stay at home and have presents only for our grandchildren. We cannot spend too much money." Italy is in the midst of deep recession. In October unemployment stood at just over 11 percent - its highest level in 8 years. Consumer groups estimate Italians will spend around three percent less this Christmas than last. (SOUNDBITE) (Italian) ROMAN RESIDENT GAIA BIANCHESSI SAYING: "There are going to be very few presents this year, It's a different Christmas from the ones I remember in my childhood but not different from the last two we have had." One of Italy's poorest regions has donated a nativity scene that will be set up next to the Vatican's tree. And at this tree in central Rome, funds are being raised to help victims of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Proof that - in spite of the financial squeeze, the spirit of giving remains alive.