The Rificolona takes place on the 7th of September every year in Florence. It is a really joyful tradition, especially for kids, and has been taking place for centuries.
The origins of the Rificolona are in fact dated back to the 1800s when farmers, together with their wives, came to Florence from the nearby hills to celebrate the Nativity of the Madonna on the 8th of September. These farmers not only came to Florence to celebrate the Madonna, but to sell their products at the market. To make sure that they did not get a bad space at the market they started to walk to Florence the night before, which is the 7th of September. Obviously, back then there was no light so, in order to see in the dark, the farmers walked down the hills with a lantern with a candle inside hanging on a wooden stick. So, on the night of the 7th of September, Florence was “invaded” with farmers coming from the nearby hills with these lanterns.
This is why today in every part of the city events are organized for the Florentine children. They celebrate the Rificolona by walking around with a paper lantern (which is now called Rificolona and has every kind of shape) lit by a candle and singing traditional songs.
There is another part of the story of the Rificolona. It is said that at some point the farmers stopped coming to Florence with the lanterns, yet the tradition of lanterns was maintained and then included older children who would throw pieces watermelon skin at the lanterns so they would catch fire. The tradition today is not that different because the younger children carry the Rificolona and the older ones have fun with a blowgun and some putty balls which make holes in the Rificolonas. Now, many of the Rificolonas, instead of a candle, have a small light inside so it is impossible for them to catch fire, but for the older kids it is still fun to hit the lanterns and make holes.
So, if you plan on going to the Rificolona on the streets of Florence make sure that you buy a lantern and that you learn this verse: “Ona, ona ona ma che bella la mia rificolona” so you can sing together with the locals.
This is jus one of the many Florentine traditions..