Bonfires: History

Bonfires: History

Sparks of fire dance towards the dark night sky. It is Christmas Eve; in Abbadia San Salvatore it is Bonfire Night.

10873003_10204517099480077_3089866589683998669_oEvery December 24th, the city on Monte Amiata renews one of the oldest Italian festivals of fire, a thousand-year old tradition, which locals deeply cherish and actively participate in.

It is at the beginning of December that the construction of the bonfires officially starts; it is custom to stack wood in a pyramid shape, sometimes up to seven meters high, reaching up towards the sky ready to be lit on Christmas Eve. A challenging task whose secrets are passed down from generation to generation to celebrate a fire ritual that involves the entire Badenga community, uniting pagan and religious symbolism.

The locals are truly “fire children” living on Monte Amiata, a volcanic mountain that once hid incandescent lava deep down inside, a land which has always provided nourishment and wellbeing for all. Cinnabar was excavated here to extract mercury in the big mine that now houses a museum. A complex history that inextricably connects man with nature in a dance that is sometimes difficult but always full of love.

In fact, it is this mountain, loved and cherished as a mother and sacred presence, which the Badenghi people celebrate even, in some way, through the tradition of the bonfires.

The ceremony takes place every year with a traditional ritual. At six o’clock in the evening in an intimate and spectacular moment that is witnessed by hundreds of people, the Lighting Ceremony begins with the Blessing of the Fire, Benedizione del Fuoco, which marks the beginning of the festival. The band plays Christmas carols and the bonfires in front of City Hall are lit with the sacred fire. This is the standard signal, and from here the Bonfire Leaders, with their lit torches in hand, carry the flames that will light the dozens of other bonfires located throughout the center and the rest of this city on Monte Amiata. A magical and enchanting experience.

But the community, which lives and awaits its enchanting night throughout the year, celebrates the Christmas Bonfire Night for an entire month of events with Abbadia City of the Bonfires, Abbadia Città delle Fiaccole. During this time, the bonfires are constructed day after day alongside events, shows, entertainment, markets and many other initiatives that transform Abbadia into an authentic Christmas village. A truly unique Christmas experience that cannot be found in any other place in the world.