Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral voiced its financial woes to foreign embassies earlier this month. Part of that discussion led the rector of Notre Dame to admit that the cathedral was unable to afford their traditionally enormous Christmas tree this year. However, Russia quickly told the cathedral that they would cover the costs and even threw in a Russian Santa for the lighting ceremony.
According to the Associated Press, amid high tension between Russia and the West over violence in Ukraine, Russia’s ambassador to France says the “tree is a message of peace.” Russian Ambassador Alexander Orlov says that it was a “nice present” but was not being used to gain favor in the West over clashes between Russia and Ukraine.
“We thought this would be a rather nice present.”
Russia is not disclosing how much the giant Christmas tree cost Russia, but it was apparently a large enough price tag that the Cathedral didn’t think they would be able to afford one this year. Regardless of the hefty price, Orlov insisted the gift has nothing to do with politics or a troubled deal to sell a French warship to Russia, stalled because of the Ukraine conflict.
RT notes that in the past, it was customary for donations toward the tree to be collected only with the help of the local parish. This year, however, it couldn’t make the target. In the short space of time remaining, Moscow City Hall came to the rescue and that is how Russia came to sponsor Paris’ Christmas tree.
Interestingly, Christmas is filled with notions of peace, love, joy and hope, all of which Russia seems to be struggling with as the nation faces harsh criticism for actions taken against Ukraine. Though the Notre Dame Cathedral says it is gracious for the gift from Russia, it hopes that the tree will be sponsored by a Ukrainian government next year. In other words, they hope Ukraine keeps territory and conflict is able to cease in the region.
However, for this year, Paris will be displaying the Russian Christmas tree for all to enjoy. You can watch the lighting ceremony below.
Saturday’s ceremony was attended by Russian ambassador Aleksandr Orlov and the rector of the Notre Dame de Paris, Monsignor Patrick Jacquin, both of whom took part in switching on the enormous tree.
“I have chosen this tree from my forests,” Santa Claus announced.
Santa was later revealed to be Russian embassy spokesperson Sergei Parinov.
Russia may be using the Christmas tree as an opportunity to gain a little positive press following reports of Russia nuclear weapons stockpiling, Putin’s tigers killing Chinese goats and Sweden claiming Russia sent a submarine into their waters.
What do you think? Was the Notre Dame Christmas tree purchase an attempt to win over a little favor in the West by Russia?