Florence Tree Lighting Adapts to COVID Restrictions


Florence’s 2019 tree lighting ceremony

Florence will be kicking off the Christmas season a day early this year.  Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the annual tree lighting ceremony in Piazza del Duomo, which usually takes place on the evening of December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, has been rescheduled for December 7 at 6:30 pm to avoid the crowds as seen in the picture.  

Despite the slight change of plans, Florentines can still watch the fir tree brought down from Tuscany’s Casentino mountains sparkle in the darkness from the comfort of their own homes. The ceremony will be streamed live on both mayor Dario Nardella’s social media as well as on Florence’s YouTube channel, Florence TV. 

As usual, the life-size nativity scene will be set up in front of the Duomo starting tomorrow, December 8, and will remain until Epiphany Day on January 6. This year the Holy Family, angel, and ox sculptures will be accompanied by a shepherdess and two sheep. Made from terracotta as a homage to the Cathedral’s roofing, the sculptures were donated to the Opera of Santa Maria del Fiore by their maker, Luigi Mariani. 

Unfortunately, the 25th edition of the Cavalcade of the Magi ceremony scheduled for January 6, 2021, will be cancelled. The ceremony, a Florentine 15th century custom, would typically start in the early afternoon at Palazzo Pitti. An entourage of knights, ladies, musicians, and riders on horseback in Renaissance dress would process through the city entertaining spectators lining the streets. They would end at Piazza del Duomo where a live Nativity scene would replace the terracotta figures and Florence’s Cardinal Betori would speak. 

On a brighter note, Florence will be continuing their “Three Artist Trees” program which debuted last year with the support of the Novecento Museum of 20th and 21st Art and Sergio Risaliti. The initiative invites three internationally renowned artists to design their interpretation of a Christmas tree to be displayed in piazzas across the city center. This year’s artists, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Mimmo Paladino, and Domenico Bianchi will have trees in Piazza Gino Bartali, Piazza Santo Spirito, starting December 8 and one in Piazza Santa Maria Novella on December 16. (savannah camastro & elizabeth berry)