Rificolona Festival

Rificolona Festival
Photo: visitflorence.com
The Rificolona Festival (la festa della Rificolona), or the Festival of Paper Lanterns, is held in the Italian city of Florence on the eve of the feast of the Nativity of Mary celebrated on September 8. It features a procession of people carrying bright paper lanterns on long sticks.

Florence is famous for the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata (Basilica of the Most Holy Annunciation) founded in 1520 by the Servite Order. The basilica is dedicated to Holy Mary, the Mother of God. It has been a pilgrimage site for centuries. On the eve of the Nativity of Mary, hundreds of people from nearby towns and villages, dressed in their Sunday best, would head to Florence to attend the mass at the basilica.

The Rificolona Festival originates from this traditional pilgrimage. Pilgrims carried lanterns to find their way in the dark. Over the years, this tradition has transformed into a colorful festival of lanterns held every year. Today, many people don’t celebrate the Nativity of Mary or other religious holidays, but this doesn’t prevent them from enjoying the beautiful festival of paper lanterns.

The procession led by a cardinal makes its way through the streets of Florence, from the Piazza Santa Felicita to the Piazza Santissima Annunziata. Its participants, many of whom are children, carry paper lanterns hanging from long sticks and sing the old song associated with the festival. Anyone can be part of the procession, be they a local resident or a tourist, but you need to buy or make a paper lantern in order to participate.

Another highlight of the Rificolona Festival is a market. When the pilgrimage was the official reason to visit Florence, farmers used it as an opportunity to sell their goods in the city. They brought vegetables, honey, cheeses and small handmade items to sell them at the Piazza Santissima Annunziata and September 8 eventually became an official market day. The tradition has continued until the present day, with an organic produce market held around the time of the festival.

Festa della Rificolona

Photo: villalariflorence.com




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