Feast of the Annunciation and the Florentine New Year, by Ellen Miller

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Florence may have already marked the new year along with the rest of the world, but there is another celebration coming. However, until 1749 Florence actually celebrated the new year in March, and it is that day that is still celebrated in Florence today as the Florentine New Year.

The date originates from the Catholic annunciation, which celebrates the angel Gabriel’s announcement to the virgin Mary that she would give birth to Jesus, the savior of the world. Church officials originated the date by counting backwards nine months from the date the birth of Christ is traditionally celebrated, December 25. The Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated by Catholics and some other Christians annually to celebrate Mary’s obedience as well as the coming of the Christ child. In Florence, the event is more significant, however, as the date also marks the traditional Florentine New Year.

In 1582 the Gregorian calendar came into popularity, meaning that January 1 was more commonly believed to mark the beginning of the new year. The tradition in Florence did not change until Grand Duke Francis III issued a decree in 1749 that brought Florence into keeping with the rest of the area. Technically now Florence marks January 1 as the new year, but March 25 still holds a special place of interest to the city as it is the traditional new year as well as a significant date for Catholics. In 2000, the city of Florence made the date official.

The Florentine new year, or Feast of the Annunciation, is marked by a parade from the Palazzo Vecchio to the Piazza Santissima Annunziata. Food, drink and music abound in the piazza and visitors typically also pay a visit to the church, named for the annunciation and intricately decorated. If you are in Florence on March 25, the holiday is an excellent opportunity to experience a local holiday firsthand, and enjoy the celebration of a new year for the second time.

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