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Festival of Lanterns
During this festival, the children of Florence carry papier-mâché lanterns, of various shapes and colors tied to the ends of sticks as they walk through the streets of the city.these lanterns are called rificolone.
The origin of this festival is not known for sure but it legend tells that it could have begun in 1555 when the triumphant Florentine troops returned from Siena with lanterns tied onto the end of their pikes.
Most probably though, is that the Festival began just before the celebration of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary celebrated every year on September 7th, when farmers and mountaineers came to the city to sell, buy, and trade at the annual Fall Market held in the Piazza of Saint Annunziata.
In order to find the best place on the square, the farmers, and mountaineers, dressed in their Sunday bests, would leave during the night before dawn, carrying lanterns with candles and paper wind shades to illuminate the way. Their attempt at elegance was ridiculed by the city dwellers; in fact even today, one who dresses badly is referred to as a "rificolona" by the Florentines. Children would imitate them by making their own lanterns made of colored paper and follow along their trail blowing whistles and singing rhymes, and shoot at their lanterns in the attempt to rock the candles out of place. This teasing was tolerated only by grasping on to the thought of the earnings that would be made the next day at the market to get them through the long winter that awaited them.
Slowly, with time, the country and mountain people no longer needed this market but nonetheless, the ritual of the children became a custom. Even today, every year preceding the celebration of the Nativity of the Madonna on September 7, the Festa della Rificolona takes place and finishes off with a procession, led by the Cardinal, to Piazza Santissima Annunziata where merrymaking continues on far into the night.
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