On 24 December the town of Abbadia San Salvatore, on the slopes of Monte Amiata, brings out its best and most important festival, so old that its origins are shrouded in the mists of time. The evening of the Fiaccole - wooden pyres which can climb seven metres high - is not only a way of dreaming away the hours before Christmas, nor is it a repetition of ancestral liturgies passed down from father to son; it is above all the climax of a very special time in the year, which is rooted deep in the heart of every citizen of Abbadia. The ceremony takes place every year with a traditional ritual: at 6pm, in a moment profound and spectacular enough to draw hundreds of people, the Cerimonia di Accensione gets underway with the 'Benezione del Fuoco' (Blessing of the Fire), which marks the start of the festival. The band plays Christmas songs and the bonfire in front of the town hall is lit with sacred flame. On this signal, the people known as 'Capi Fiaccola' light their torches and carry them to the dozens of other bonfires dispersed around the historic centre and the rest of the little town. The community, however, who spend the whole year waiting for this enchanting night, have already been celebrating for a month, a festive period called 'Abbadia Città dell Fiaccole'. It takes this long to build the pyres, which rise little by little every day; but there are events, displays, entertainments, market fairs and numerous other initiatives which help to speed up the countdown to Christmas Eve, and which transform Abbadia into an authentic Christmas village.