World ? Europe ? Italy ? Florence

Festival of the Cricket

Cages at the Festa del Grillo. Courtesy of Florence Tourist Office

24 May 2009 (annual)
Telephone: +39 055 29 08 32
Has your lucky star turned into a black hole? Don't worry, help is at hand at the Florentine Festa del Grillo at Parco delle Cascine, where thousands of "lucky crickets" are sold every year on the Day of Ascension.
This busy Festa-cum-market stars not only the crickets, but also stalls selling food and sweets of various kinds. There are musical shows and entertainment throughout the day, and the atmosphere is described as "joyous, infantile and truly rustic".

The festival replaces the earlier May-day celebrations of the Florentine Calendimaggio, when young men used to donate a cricket, symbolic of good luck, to their loved ones, and is inspired by the 19th-century carnivalesque Ascension-day celebration. This was a day for play, courtship, good food and loosened social etiquette in an epoch known for its severe customs. Children used to chase crickets, and shrewd small-time merchants soon spotted the market for "lucky" singing crickets in cages, giving the festival the theme and the name that it still carries today.

In recent years protests have been raised about the cruel and meaningless mistreatment of the animals, and a campaign was even planned to abolish the event. The fight between animal activists and lovers of tradition has now come to an end - the crickets are replaced by artificial ones that make noise just as the real ones. The question is, will they bring as much luck?
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