People team into Candelara from all local roads from early afternoon for three weekends in yuletide. Most arrive from the direction of Pesaro seeking parking to reduce the climb on this hillside village to be part of Candles of Candelara.

The sun ends its day over the hills and mountains to the west not long after 4 at this time of year and the locals and regular visitors are rugged up ready for the pale warmth of the day to rush into the deep sky leaving a fresh chill in the village. The chill soon empties the supplies of vino brulé from the artisanal stalls among the Christmas fair, and the thousands of visitors await the gathering dusk, meanwhile wandering from stall to stall comparing the multitude of candles and related gift ideas.

There are a few special artisans showing their wares at Candles in Candelara, a metal sculptor whose speciality is appropriately, old-fashioned candle holders, a bag weaver using willow tree fronds and producing bags for mushroom collectors among other traditional shopping and carry bags, and glass Christmas tree decorations. The candle artisans sit with their creations, demonstrating their various approaches to create sought after designs.

There are two candlelight shows each evening of the Candles of Candelara festivities. The first resembles a packed out rock concert without the band, or a sanctification ceremony. People stand packed as sardines into the square and the local ways to experience the candle show and the lighting of the church tower, an event that we trust will not eventually lead to loss of the binding mortar between the stones.

At the selected time, the electric lights are extinguished and the village is filled with well known classical tunes such as Rossini overtures. The pigeons know it is time to fly away as their roosting places in the tower become rose and green effervescent flames of the Guy Fawkes fireworks. Christmas lights appear on the church tower and, from the balcony, a hundred or more large white balloons are released by the children and these orbs climb quickly into the dark sky creating a stream of tiny diamonds in the dark evening.

The lights are re-awakened and visitors quickly disperse to their buses and campervans. Families with prams and strollers no longer form a blockade of overexcited children, and the village streets and piazza become once more capable for transit and for a pleasant search of the artisans’ wares. Now is time to stroll, open the wallet a little, and even share a vino awaiting the second show, which rewards with an unhindered view of the festive candleshow and another rush of the pigeons.

It seems that even with introduction of one way walking paths, Candles of Candelara may have reached its saturation point for this small village, and we wish the Proloco and the organising team ‘bocca lupo’ in managing the throngs for this year and future festivities. The exciting challenge will be to enhance even further the experience of the candleshow while maintain the feeling of the traditional old-world village and the goodwill of the tourist throng.

We return next year to share an afternoon or two with the world’s visitors to the Candles of Candelara.