Friday, September 15, 2006

Rificolona (Paper Lantern Festival)

September 8 is the traditional day that Catholics celebrate the birth of Mary, the mother of Jesus. During the time of the Renaissance, pilgrims would gather on the eve of the holiday with lanterns in front of the Church of the Most Holy Annunciation (Santissima Annunziata). Today, it is mostly a family holiday, known as Rificolona. The crowd gathers in front of Santa Croce. Most of the children carry paper lanterns, lit with candles, on long sticks. They can be bought from many stores around the city, or handmade. There were stars, suns, animals, and even one in the shape of a castle. The rest of the children carried pea shooters and plenty of ammunition in the form of play-doh.

Anna, Matt, Lauren, and I went to join in the fun. Lauren made a lantern out of cardboard, and we joined the procession. From Santa Croce, the brightly lit crowd paraded through the streets of downtown Florence over to Santissima Annuziata. There, various dignataries gave speeches, and a children's choir sang several songs. Several trailers were set up along the back selling drinks and snacks. As we all milled about, listening to the program and meeting acquaintances, the pea shooters came out. It is also traditional to try to shoot each other's lanterns to smitherines. You are a great pea-shooter if you can get one to catch fire.

Anyhow, it was fun to get out and participate in one of the local holidays. I've been meaning to write about it all week, but I kept waiting until I had a better picture. I still don't have a great one--my camera's batteries were dying, and the light was awful--but I will go ahead and post. Anna took pictures, too, and maybe some of hers will come out better. If so, I'll add a better picture later.

The crowd begins to gather...

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