During the Middle Ages, all the countries of Western Europe affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church were following the Julian calendar, but all differed in regards to New Year’s Day. Some began their year on the 15th December (the Nativity of Jesus), others on the 25th March (the Incarnation of Jesus), at Easter or on the 1st September. As a consequence, during this period the same day in various countries were in different years.
The Grand Duchy of Tuscany was one of the countries who started their year on the 25th March. Many Christians, in fact, observed the New Year with the Feast of the Annunciation since it was a full nine months before Christmas. Thus the date marked the new year until 20th November 1749 when Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor and Grand Duke of Tuscany, signed the declaration that on the whole Tuscany territory the New Year was to commence on the following 1st January.
As to this day, however, many Tuscan towns still commemorate the beginning of the New Year on March 25th. Pisa, for instance, celebrates in the morning with a pageant that collects in the beautiful Piazza dei Cavalieri and leads towards the Cathedral, under the shade of the leaning tower. Here everyone enters the basilica to witness the tradition of the sunray which at midday illuminates a particular point and signs the beginning of the New Year. Generally other events follow during the afternoon finishing with a firework display in the evening or on the following Saturday.
Florence, instead, celebrates in the afternoon with flag-wavers and drummers leading the procession through town until the steps of the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata, where inside they will pay homage to the image of the Lady. Also in Florence other events follow during the evening.
Siena too commemorates this old tradition with a procession of all its Contrade who parade towards the Church of the Santissima Annunziata within Santa Maria della Scala, and here they offer a votive candle. A lectio magistralis is later held in the magnificent Sala del Mappamondo in the town hall, Palazzo Pubblico. In the evening all the contradas organize dinners and concerts.
Certainly to celebrate a New Year in Spring, the season of rebirth, is a better idea.