Capodanno a Firenze

Last night there were fireworks in Florence.  Something was definitely up!

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And that’s because today, March 25, is the date marking the beginning of the new year according to Florentine tradition. The city commemorates the occasion with a major parade which begins at the Palazzo Vecchio and makes a pilgrimage to the Santissima Annunziata. That church is important because of it houses a medieval fresco of  the Annunciation, which is believed (by some people at least!) to have been partially painted by angels.

The fresco and the church of Santissima Annunziata (the Most Holy Annunciation) has always been the centerpiece of the Florence’s New Year festivities in late March. The fresco can still be viewed on the inner wall to the left of the entrance.

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The story goes that the artist commissioned to paint the Annunciation fell asleep after completing all but the face of the Virgin Mary. Upon his awakening, he found a completed, beautiful blonde Madonna – angelic masters had finished the fresco for him.

From 1250 to 1750, the people of Florence gathered in the church of SS Annunziata to welcome the arrival of spring and to officially celebrate the Annunciation, or the moment   when the Angel Gabriel told Mary that she would be the mother of Christ. March 25 of course is exactly 9 months before Christmas, when the Christ child was born.

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In order to celebrate the event, the municipality of Firenze organizes a parade with traditional costumes, music and flag-wavers. The historical procession (called the corteo storico) of the Florentine Republic,  starts around 2:45 pm at the palace of the Palagio di Parte Guelfa, heading toward the Basilica SS. Annunziata.

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Florentines were so devoted to the Madonna that until 1750, they refused to accept the Gregorian calendar year that begins on January 1. This devotion remains a part of the culture and was celebrated again today.

 

 

Chocolates and Valentines

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For a fun history of how chocolate became a Valentine’s treat, see this article:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2018/02/14/we-owe-our-sinful-valentines-day-chocolates-to-the-prudish-self-denying-cadburys/?hpid=hp_hp-more-top-stories-2_retro-valentinesday-746am%3Ahomepage%2Fstory&utm_term=.ccf5c5b84d4b 

And for a terrific history of the paper Valentines, see the New York Times:

 

 

What I learned at the Florentine Cavalcada last Saturday

I was riding horses before I could walk.  You may think I am exaggerating, but this is true.  I wasn’t riding solo as a baby and toddler, but I was in the arms of my dad as he sat atop his horses. And, I was riding solo by the time I was 5 or so, and competing in amateur rodeos throughout my childhood and tween years.  Then I developed a voice of my own and stopped riding.

Because of my equestrian background, I believed I had seen it all.  But, not so!

 

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I don’t know if you can see it in these 2 photos, but it is possible to bow to authority on a horse.  I had never seen this before!

During the Cavalada in Florence last Saturday, in honor of the national holiday of Epiphany, a moment arrived in which all the participants in the parade bowed their heads before the religious and civic leaders on the podium.  And to my amazement, the equestrians bowed their heads while leaning as far forward as possible over the back of their horses.  As well, they all held their right arms as far back as they could.  And, they held this pose for several minutes.  There was no mistaking it: these horseback riders were bowing.

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Live and learn and Italy is the best place in the world for me to do it!!