Candles at Yuletide among the Candelara hills

In the soft rolling hills of the Marche region, one village is distinguished from the others at Yuletide by a celebration that is unique in the world: the small town of Candelara, the country of the candles. From the end of November for three weekends electric lighting is extinguished and the villagers use the flames of thousands of oil lamps and candles.

Candles of all shapes, sizes and national histories invade this small medieval village, in the hills above Pesaro, that perhaps owes its name to this tradition.

In fact there are two hypotheses for the derivation of Candelara: one is from the Latin “festum candela rum”, the ritual of the candles (fires) handed down from paganism to Christianity, and supported by the fact that in the emblem of the town there are three candles. The second hypothesis comes from the term “candidaria” to emphasize the healthiness of the local climate.

The discovery of fire is one of the most important steps in human history and since that accidental discovery, man has sought ways to keep the flame efficient, alive and ready to use, by means of torches, lamps, oil lamps and candles. The use of waxes for candles and oil lamps was one of the first activities that differentiated the lifestyle of man from that of other animals.

In likely memory of this, during the yuletide before Christmas, thousands of candles illuminate the countryside of Pesaro, making the naturally hilly landscape even more impressive, and lighting up the now famed Christmas markets.

Wax making artisans compete in their ancient and precious work in designing and shaping candles, just as they did in the Middle Ages, only now the candles are made from beeswax.

Candelara is one of several castle villages around the city of Pesaro, from which you can admire the Apennines and the sea. It was already inhabited in Roman times and in the eleventh century (1176) became a place of refuge for the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa.

The story of Candelara is also linked to the Malatesta family and in 1445 there was the siege of the castle of Candelara conducted by Federico da Montefeltro. Otherwise, its history has been, like much of Marche, relatively benign, until the creativity of the annual candle pageant.

And now people throng from all countries to be among the lights of Candelara and enjoy the traditional Christmas markets on those few weekends of the year.

See you there.