Fiaccole di Natale - Christmas Eve bonfire
Up until recent days the Amiata wood, made of beech and chestnut trees that cover almost uniformly the slopes of the former volcano, was the main source of livelihood for the infinite number of generations that have lived this mountain.
At the same time, the forest has proved an inexhaustible source of discord between a minority - nobles and clergy who owned the land - and the majority of people, households that had in the wood the means for survival.
The wood has been the priority for those who lived in it or on its edges, and it is not surprising that the major festivals and rituals in the Amiata area take their inspiration from the forest, like the log that is placed in the fireplace on Christmas Eve, or the trunks that burn in countless fiaccolate accompanying the various festive events.
The importance of the forest is also emphasized in the coat of arms of the biggest town in the slopes of the Amiata, Abbadia San Salvatore: a big tree on top of which is the head of God, with on his right hand a globe surmounted by a cross and on his left hand a beam of arrows.
A "talking" emblem, to use a heraldic term, linked to the legendary foundation of the town: it was the eighth Century and the Lombard King Rachis was hunting in the Amiata when, all of a sudden, appeared on the highest branches of a chestnut tree a light beam that became a human being. "I am the King of Kings," said the figure at King Rachis, "and I command you to build a church in this place in my honour".
To the forest is also linked the main celebration of Abbadia San Salvatore, the Fiaccole di Natale - Christmas Eve Bonfire. The tradition is said to be born one Christmas Eve in a year of unspecified remote past, when the inhabitants, waiting for the abbot to open the doors of the church to celebrate the mass, were forced by the cold to light up a large bonfire in the square outside the church.
Today bonfires are up to 7 meters high and are still repeated on December 24, yearly, in squares, streets and other points of the most significant town in the slopes of the Amiata.
Where: Abbadia San Salvatore. Various squares and areas of the town centre.
When: 24 December (fixed date)