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Ring in the New Year, Florentine-Style

It is a tradition somewhat odd that of the Florentine ringing of the new year, yet a quite interesting one. One of the many that the Florentine government has, in recent years, decided to revive. Maybe because Florentines have always remained so attached to their traditions, maybe because they have always felt to be so different from other Italians, maybe because of both these things at the same time. Regardless of the reason why this tradition has been revived, this year too Florence will ring the new year a second time, on March 25.
In fact, it was until 1750 that Florentines marked the start of the new year not on Jan. 1 but on March 25, in coincidence with the Feast of the Annunciation. While the Gregorian calendar had been followed in other Italian states since 1582, it wasn’t until 1749, when Grand Duke Francesco II decreed a change to the modern temporal calculations, that Florence started marking the New Year on Jan. 1 as in the rest of the Italian peninsula.
Celebrations on March 25 were linked to the worship of the Virgin Mary and included a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Santissima Annunziata to venerate a thirteenth-century fresco depicting the Annunciation. The work is said to have been completed by miraculous intervention: the commissioned artist, unable to complete the face of Mary despite several attempts, fell into a deep sleep and when he awoke he discovered the image of Mary’s face had been completed. From this a legend arose that the fresco had been finished by angels. Thus on March 25, devotees would make a pilgrimage to the basilica, and out of this a tradition arose, too, a yearly fair held in the piazza. Via dei Servi, the road that connects this church to the Duomo, is named for the religious order that founded Santissima Annunziata, the Servi di Maria.
In recent years, the Florentine government has revived this traditional celebration, organizing free concerts at the basilica as well as historical re-enactments of the procession from Palazzo Vecchio to Santissima Annunziata. Be on the lookout that day for the procession and live concerts in piazzas throughout Florence.


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