Sparks of fire rise towards the dark night sky and warm the faces of visitors numb from the cold: it is Christmas Eve, the Notte delle Fiaccole (Night of the Torchlights) at Abbadia San Salvatore.
Every 24th December in this historic village in the province of Siena, this ancient tradition is held as a way to renew ancestral liturgies rooted in the heart of every local resident.
Wooden pyres up to seven metres high are prepared using special techniques that have been handed down from generation to generation. Built in each terziere of the small medieval village, the wood is prepared as early as autumn. It is a painstaking task that unites young and old.
At 6:00 p.m., under the watchful and silent gaze of hundreds of people, the main torch-lighting ceremony in front of the town hall and the Blessing of the Fire take place, marking the start of the festival. The melody of Christmas songs accompanies the torch leaders who carry flaming torches to light the dozens of other torches scattered throughout the historic centre and the rest of the town on Mount Amiata. It is a truly unique, magnetic and evocative spectacle.
One of Italy’s oldest fire festivals, it invites all visitors to experience the eternal struggle between Light and Darkness with honest hearts and a sense of communion, and to reflect on and welcome the Mystery of Christmas.