Those who love Christmas, with its colors and its magical atmosphere, can not miss the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Siena, able to spend December 8 in a completely different, fun and unforgettable way!
The focal point of the festival is the Mercato nel Campo, a famous exhibition that inaugurates the Sienese Christmas period and consists of a faithful reproduction of an ancient medieval market, typical of the Republic of Siena. But not only: dozens of Christmas stalls are located in the most famous and popular areas of the city such as Piazza Matteotti, Piazza Gramsci, Viale XXV Aprile and Piazzetta della Giraffa.
The Christmas markets are the backdrop to many initiatives that, throughout the holiday period, characterize the streets of the city: these are tastings, entertainment for adults and children, magic shows and music and various social-solidarity events. In addition, visitors can participate in various guided tours around the city, discovering some of the symbolic buildings such as the Duomo and Palazzo Chigi Saracini.
Gastronomic excellence at the Market in the Field
Piazza del Campo is a real symbol of Siena, which reflects the meeting point between culture, tradition and custom that, despite the passage of time, have remained perfectly unchanged while maintaining their authenticity. The square is also an expression of the Italian Renaissance, a very important historical period that has made the city an architectural beauty with which it is really difficult to compete.
Every year, during the first or second weekend of December, Piazza del Campo welcomes the Campo Market, an enograstronomico itinerary to discover the culinary excellence of the Tuscan territory. All those present have the opportunity to take a step back in time of several centuries to relive the taste, folklore and experience of wandering inside a typical medieval market of 1300, between stalls full of food and crafts and areas for tasting.
On December 8th in the province of Siena
The Feast of the Immaculate, therefore, is very felt in Siena and its province, so much so as to be celebrated with numerous events in different locations. Beyond the Campo Market there are:
- the Oil Festival, in San Quirico d’Orcia;
- Borgo del Vin Santo in Montefollonico, in the municipality of Torrita di Siena;
- the Fairytale towards Christmas, in Piancastagnaio;
- Art Markets, in Pienza;
- Castagne and Vino Novo, in San Gimignano;
- the Mercatale of the Val d’Elsa, in Monteriggioni.
In addition, those who decide to visit Siena around the date of December 8, can also visit the Santa Claus Village in Chianciano Terme and the Christmas Village in Montepulciano: two experiences to live especially in the company of children!
But not only: you can also make pleasant excursions in Chianti and Val d’Orcia and, at the same time, participate in delicious wine tastings and Christmas cakes prepared according to the best traditional recipes: just think of Panforte, Ricciarelli, Cavallucci and many other delicacies that can also be great gift ideas to put under the tree!
The origins of devotion to Mary Immaculate
The cult of the Immaculate Conception in Siena is deep and rooted: it consists of a very interesting story, the result of theological clashes and armed wars, which still today gives the city the role of first-born in the consecration of the Mother of Jesus Christ.
Still, in fact, the two most famous palios of Siena (that of July 2 and that of August 16) are held on the occasion or immediately after a Marian anniversary, namely the Assumption and the Feast of Our Lady of Provenzano.
The Marian patronage of the citizens of Siena began in 1260, the year of the most famous battle of the city’s Middle Ages, which ended with the victory of Montaperti against the Florentine Guelphs. The clash is repeatedly remembered of the Divine Comedy of Dante, especially because of the killing of the entire Guelph army by the Ghibelline, which was also joined by the Florentine Ghibellines and the imperial troops. One thing that many do not know, however, is that the Sienese, before taking the field, organized a Marian procession and a special ceremony to ask for support to Mary, who seemed to arrive precisely in the Sienese victory and the subsequent escape of the Guelph army.
It is from this episode onwards that the city of Siena tightens a deep and indissoluble relationship with Mary Most Holy so that, In 1266, the seal of the Republic of Siena presented a Madonna enthroned with a Rose of Jericho and feet resting on the head of a snake.
Over the centuries, in the darkest moments the Sienese have always turned to Our Lady for help and encouragement and, even today, nothing seems to have changed. This is why 8 December is not a simple «calendar festival», but is the emblem of a faith and a religious sentiment that goes far beyond.
The Christmas Night Torches of Abbadia San Salvatore
December 8 is the official date of the beginning of the Christmas holidays a bit ‘everywhere, but especially in the province of Siena is an opportunity to organize themed events and give way to the preparations for the highly anticipated Christmas night. Among these, there are certainly those for the Christmas Night Torches of Abbadia San Salvatore: stacks of wood in the shape of a pyramid, even 7 meters high, which are set on fire on December 24 as if they were real torches!
The Torches are the oldest fire festival in Italy, a historic event that citizens begin to organize since autumn with the collection of wood and involving all members of the community, regardless of their religious beliefs.
Tradition holds a deep spiritual meaning: in ancient times, the Sun, on the occasion of the winter solstice, seemed to be sucked into darkness and then peeped out on December 25. The phenomenon, known all over the world, soon became a cause for celebration: the Romans, for example, established the feast of Sol Invictus, characterized by propitiatory fires that served to stimulate the «rebirth» of the sun and its ascent to heaven.
The festival, with the advent of Christianity, gave way to Christmas, but in Siena the rite of fire has never been abandoned so that the ceremony, still today and every year, follows a very precise ritual: at 18.00 begins the Ceremony of Lighting, a moment as intimate as spectacular that, with the Blessing of Fire, marks the beginning of the festival; subsequently, the band plays the most famous Christmas songs and we start with the torch placed in front of the Town Hall, that gives way to the various Torch Leaders to access all the others.
The show is so particular and evocative that it would really be a shame not to attend at least once in your life!