Happy Christmas Eve!
It’s big day around my house, and in lots of others, too.
And in a village in Italy, where people come together on this day for a very illuminating holiday tradition.
The community is called Abbadia San Salvatore.
It’s in Tuscany, maybe 2 ½ hours south of Florence, and about the same distance north of Rome.
In the fall, people in town start gathering extra wood.
In particular, they’re looking for pieces that can be stacked into tall pyramids, known as “fiaccole.”
Townspeople spent weeks and weeks carefully positioning large logs to serve as anchors, and then adding smaller wood pieces.
How they do it is kind of a secret shared among those in town and passed down from generation to generation.
Whatever the technique is, it works: some of these towers are over twenty feet high!
Then, on Christmas Eve, at six pm, people gather for the lighting ceremony.
There’s a “blessing of fire,” followed by a band playing Christmas carols and then they light the largest tower.
Once that’s lit, Torch Leaders proceed to the other pyramids in the historical center of Abbadia San Salvatore, and the whole area is illuminated for an unforgettable community gathering.
They have music and food and holiday markets too, but the core of the event is pretty evocative if you think about it.
On what is, according to the calendar, one of the darkest and coldest days of the year, this town works together to bring heat and light to everyone.
Oh, also, often many of those in attendance are dressed in Santa suits.
Many of the gifts we give at this time of year are given out of love or friendship or gratitude.
But other gifts arise out of more complicated reasons.
Comedian Steve Harvey says he once told his schoolteacher he wanted to be on TV when he grew up.
He was told that his dream was ridiculous and that he was being a “smartaleck.”
So, when he hit it big, he started sending that teacher a new television every Christmas, just to make sure she saw him.