Natalecci of Gorfigliano in Garfagnana
Gorfigliano, Minucciano, 24 December
Every year on the 24th of December the night sky in certain parts of Garfagnana is lit up with large fires. These are the Natalecci. Huge circular towers, often 10 to 15 meters tall and sometimes even as high as 20 meters, made up of trees and covered with branches of juniper
which are then set alight. Villages try to outdo each other by building the tallest Nataleccio or the one that burns the longest. The origins of this ceremony have long since been lost but probably dates back to a pagan
rite to the god Mitra but which was then appropriated by the Christian
faith and given meaning with the fires now warming up the newly born Jesus.
As the church bells ring out across the valley to announce the birth of the Messiah, the people around the Nataleccio start to sing "Oh! Oh! Nataleccio! Oh! Oh! Nataleccio!" and the fires are lit. The air is then rent with the sound of fireworks, sirens, shouts and the unmistakeable sound of gunshots.