The Paper Lantern Festival of Florence
Date: September 7, 2016
Location: Piazza Santa Croce, Florence
Lights in the Sky
Every year in Florence, The Paper Lantern Festival of Florence celebrating Maria, the mother of Jesus, is held, with thousands of residents flocking to the Piazza Santa Croce waving their paper lanterns. According to Christian tradition, on September 8 somewhere near Nazareth, the Virgin Mary was born and in Florence, the large basilica of Santissima Annunziata is dedicated to her worship, so her birthday is a day of celebration.
Many of the attendees put hours of effort into creating the most elaborate and exciting lanterns possible, while others create a multitude of simple lanterns so that the children can shoot them with various launchers (slingshots, pea shooters, etc.). Different activities are held for kids and adults alike.
Folks from all over, from the most sophisticated magistrate to the backpacking student, converge in the marketplace where everything from popcorn to paddleballs are shown off and sold. It's truly a festival for everyone.
At one time the Festival was a big popular tradition where hundreds of peasants and farmers from the surroundings towns made the long trek into the city to celebrate.
Prior to the Festa della Rificolona, there are annual market days held which are the largest of the year. While the origins of the paper lanterns are not completely clear, many assume that it grew out of the need for light when people who lived out in the countryside would come down to the city for the Festa della Rificolona. It was also a great opportunity to bring in their goods - cheeses, honey, the season's vegetables, and small hand made items - and sell their wares, so September 8th also became a big market day. Since one would have to arrive early to the market for a good place to set up and catch the first few customers, they would have to depart from their homes at night, and find their way to the market, so they used the paper lanterns to light their way, and that tradition continued afterwards.
While the festival begins in the Piazza Santa Croce, ist ends in Piazza Santissima Annunziata via parade, with a cardinal leading the way and a band playing during the procession. If you're looking for a fun, budget-minded way to enjoy Florence during your September travels, this is an excellent way to spend your time.
Photo credit: theoutlook.com.ua