Sunday, September 27, 2015

Festa della Rificolona

Children waiting to take part in Festa della Rificolona,
One of the things we love most about Florence is its rich history, which is ever-present. For example, the first week we arrived, we observed Rificolona, a paper-lantern festival where kids, parents, grandparents, and dogs all seem to take part.

The festival features a parade through the city, with children joining in with their paper lanterns all along the way. Some of the lanterns are homemade, and some are purchased. In the old days, the lanterns were lit with candles, and small boys would often use peashooters or spit wads to hit the lanterns to make them catch on fire. But we noticed that today's lanterns glow from much safer battery-operated lights, a transition much like what has happened (thankfully) with our own Halloween jack o'lanterns. Perhaps as a result, we noticed nary a spitwad. 

 Rificolona is thought to have evolved from an event that goes back to at least the 17th century. Then, farmers would bring their autumn produce to market on the day before the feast of the Virgin Mary's birth. The farmers hoped to make enough money at this important market to see them through the winter months. To get a head start on the day, families would leave early in the morning, wearing their best clothes and carrying paper lanterns that lit their paths as they made their way to the city in the early-morning. Rificolona commemorates that trek.

We followed the procession from the main square, the Piazza della Signoria to near the Duomo. It was fun to be a part of a celebration of locals and tourists, even though we didn't know the folk songs that were sung along the way, especially because it was also our anniversary. What a way to celebrate!

The rest of the procession went on to another square, the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata where more festivities were planned, but because we were tired, we headed back to the apartment.

What I found amusing about Rificolona is that, as in most places in the world, city people and country folk often are a bit disparaging about each other. For instance, the city people of Florence used to laugh at the best clothes of the "country bumpkins" who came to town for the market. I'm told that even today when Florentines see an overdressed woman wearing too much jewelry and makeup they call her a "rificolona."

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