Tomorrow is the Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary, which was once a major event in the liturgical calendar, and in Florence children celebrate the eve of the feast with the Festa della Rificolona (Festival of Paper Lanterns).
As the sun sets the smaller citizens of the city appear in the streets holding aloft brightly coloured paper lanterns. The event is thought to have originated in the 17th century when peasants from the surrounding countryside would make their way into Florence to celebrate the birth of the Virgin Mary, in the Basilica di Santissima Annunziata. The peasants would set off during the night, lighting their way with simple cloth lanterns, which were tied to the ends of sticks.
On the same day a large market would be held in the piazza in front of the church, where the peasants would sell their wares. To this day, the Piazza di Santissima Annunziata remains the focus of the Festa della Rificolona.