Friday, September 7, 2012 2:11 pm EST

The festival in Piazza SS. Annunziata - Florence
The Festival of the Rificolona is an event in Florence where a procession of the city youth continue an old custom of carrying unusually and bizarrly shaped lanterns of colored paper on top of a cane rod.

The origins of the Rificolona date back to the middle of the 17th century, and is connected with the arrival in the city of farmers with their wives, who went to the city to celebrate the nativity of the Madonna. On that occasion, they sold their produce on the plaza in front of the Basilica of the Santissima Annunziata, to earn money before winter.

To get a better position to sell their goods, the farmers and their families started their journey to the city before dawn. As they had to cross a great distance in the wee hours of the morning, they made lanterns of various shapes placed atop a cane rods or poles: the so-called Rificolone, to light their way.

Dressed in what the farm people thought was suitable for the city, they would be ridiculed by the children of Florence, who would shoot at the lanterns with their blowguns.

The children would make up little songs like this, still known and sung by kids today:

Ona, Ona, Ona,
Ona, ona ona,
O che bella Rificolona,
What a beautiful Rificolona,
La mia l'é coi fiocchi,
Mine with bows is tied,
La tua l'é coi pidocchi!
In yours do lice reside!

The Festa della Rificolona is celebrated in the squares and streets of the city of Florence together with delicious traditional cuisine.

The lovely 'Festival of the Lanterns' is said to be one of Florence's oldest festivals and is accompanied by a traditional boat parade that is illuminated with a kaleidoscope of colored lanterns in different shapes and sizes, with prizes awarded to the best and most original boat.

Even to this day, traditional Rificolona workshops are managed by the city to preserve the art of lantern making.

Multi-colored lanterns are seen hanging just about everywhere, in the windows of palazzos, in people's homes, on the river banks and along the streets of Florence.

The amazing festival ends with a long and color splashed procession from Piazza Santa Croce to Piazza Santissima Annunziata, which is led by the cardinal.