Athens, Dec 16 (IANS) A different kind of Christmas tree is erected here each year, made up with milk tins and food products, that is distributed to thousands in need across Greece during the holiday season.

Erected for the eight consecutive year on Friday by NGO "Doctors of the World" the tree is adorned with tins of milk and packages of rice, beans, sugar, olive oil and other canned food products that Athenians donated throughout the day.

The tree has a short life span. It adorns the yard of the historic building of the Athens University for just one day each year, but serves major mission, Xinhua news agency reported.

The initiative was launched in 2010, after a young patient in one of the clinics run by the NGO made a simple question to doctors treating her which revealed the pain and agony of children living in poverty.

"The little girl asked us whether Santa Claus brings milk as a present. I do not know whether he does, but all these years there are several people who do," the NGO's President Nikitas Kanakis said.

"This is a Christmas celebration and it is also a way to recall and remind the beauty of solidarity and teach it to our children," he said.

The first year the "milk tree" was set up, the NGO counted 5,000 cans.

In coming years, as more and more people heard about the initiative, the "Doctors of the World" collected on an average more than 55,000 cans of milk and more than four tons of other food products.

With the support of thousands of citizens who stopped by the university's yard on Friday, as well as central squares in other three cities, the NGO hope to break a new record.

Vassilis A., who donated a bag with milk tins and canned food, said: "I believe that particularly in harsh times we must remain human beings."

The debt crisis which hit Greece in 2009 has fuelled poverty rates and NGOs support state efforts to offer a helping hand to people in need.

The goal was that nobody was left without a basic meal in particular during the Christmas and New Year holidays.