A Year in Craco





January 6  -  Befana

Carnevale begins

Soppressata, salami, prosciutto, pancetta, lard






January 6: celebrate La Befana.  The Befana is an old woman, who brings gifts to the good children on Epiphany Eve.  If children have been good they would find oranges, almonds, or candy in their stocking.  "Bad" children would find pieces of coal instead.



§First half of January: busy with processing of pork – will kill the pork that they have been fattening since October, will make soppressata, pancetta, salami, prosciutto, lard. 


§This also marks the beginning of Carnevale – a time of feasting and serenades with the “cupa cupa” – a homemade musical instrument.




Carnevale ends on Ash Wednesday

Zappare (hoe) grain and fave








Carnevale ends on Ash Wednesday


•Zappare (hoe) grain and fave




Carnevale continues until Mardi Gras when all cooking utensils are washed in a pot of hot ashes to remove all traces of fat.   Ash Wednesday will start the Lenten season with fasting.

§In the fields, the grain and fave will be hoed with the zappa.




March 19 - St. Joseph’s Day












March 19:  Celebrate Saint Joseph’s Day by having large bonfires – the largest one in the piazza.

It is also customary to make fecazzolλ – flat fried dough pieces – and bring these to the church to be offered to the poor people.





•        Holy Thursday  - washing of disciples’ feet at church

•        Good Friday - processione

•        Easter Sunday - feast




Good Friday – always commemorates the death of Jesus by the processione.  Starts as two separate processions – one led by a statue of Jesus, the other of Mary; the two processions would join in the piazza as a symbol of Jesus meeting his mother as he carried the cross to his death.  Click here to view (and sing) the Cracotan Good Friday chants that are sung during the Good Friday Procession.


§Easter Sunday: customary to eat hard boiled eggs and soppressata for antipasto, capretto or agnello will be served,  always followed by a cake dolce.


§Children will kiss the hands of the elders – elders will give hard boiled eggs or money to children.




First weekend in May



San Nicola     





Madonna della Stella







First weekend in May will celebrate San Nicola and Madonna della Stella, starting with a processione for San Nicola on the Saturday. 

On Sunday, the entire day is dedicated to celebrating Madonna della Stella, starting with a mass in the morning followed by a procession throughout the town.

To receive special favours from the Madonna, people will decorate a cirio (wooden frame structure) with candles, the cirio will be carried by the devotee along with the procession until the procession reaches their home.  A small alter will be prepared at the house, prayers will be said – and this will complete the act of devotion.

In the afternoon, everyone gathers by the Madonna della Stella church for potato sac races, horse races, and bicycle races. In the evening, people gather and eat fave, lupini, and ceci.  In the late 50s and 60s some amusement park rides were added for kids.  The day’s festivities always end with a display of fireworks.

For all Festas, a committee will be formed consisting of 5-10 people and overseen by the priest.  Their role is to raise funds and organize the entire festa. 

Throughout the month of May there will be daily visits to the church of the Madonna della Stella to celebrate mass or to say the rosary.

May is also a busy month in the fields:  all of the fave and ceci will be picked and left in a large pile to dry. 

The people will also start preparing for the arrival of hired farm hands that will come from as far away as Lecce to assist with the grain harvest.





•June 13 -  St. Anthony

•Mietere grain













June is a busy month for cutting down all the grain and setting it aside to be threshed in July.

Celebrate St. Anthony Day on June 13:  children will be dressed in a monk cloak as a devotion to St. Anthony.   Will also bake small loaves of bread, take them to the church to have them blessed, then give away to the poor.

The first figs called Fioroni or culummλ are picked.






•             Grain

•             Fave

•             Ceci                     

•             Figs

•             Prickly pears   



This is another busy, but rewarding month for threshing the grain, and finalizing the cultivation of fave and ceci.

To thresh the grain, the grain has to be separated from the chaff.  In the 1950s, mechanical threshers were introduced to the area (it was difficult to get these machines onto the farms due to lack of roads and hilly terrain).  It's a pretty slow process by today's standards, where self-propelled combines comb up swaths of wheat and spew the separated grain into trucks travelling alongside.  But the mechanical thresher was a magnificent improvement over the arduous task of flailing the grain by hand.

For the fave and ceci, horses will be used to trample over the dried crops to separate the legume from the plant.   Farmers rely on the presence of a strong wind to blow away the plant and leave the legumes behind.

By July, all fig trees are full of sweet, ripe fruit.




August 15 –

•             Ferragosto


•             San Rocco







Then and now, harvest is the culmination of an entire year's work and its completion is cause for celebration.  In Craco this culminates with festas on August 15th with the celebration of Ferragosto.  Many people from Craco will walk to Pisticci to celebrate San Rocco.

August is a busy month for preserving bottles and bottles of tomatoes that will be used throughout the winter months (these are preserved as a paste, as tomato pieces, or as peeled tomatoes).

People will also sift the fave and ceci to select the best and put them into sacs for the winter.  The not-so-good legumes are used as food for the animals.

Ceci al tufo are made.  Ceci, fave, and lupini become snack foods for the rest of the year.



•        Madonna del Monserrato

•        Prepare fields for planting


Burn the hay in the fields; start to prepare the soil for next year’s crops.








The third Sunday in September everyone will celebrate the “Madonna del Monserrato” in the usual manner with a mass, procession, marching band, and fireworks!







Very few people have vineyards – if they do, wine will be made in September.











Plant fave, ceci 


•Fiera and Festa di San Vincenzo








Plant fave, and ceci.


§Start to pick olives to sweeten and preserve in water. 

Peppers will be hung to dry and will be consumed during the winter.  Some of the peppers will be dried in ovens then crushed to make scaglia or hot chilli pepper that will be used for cooking or for salami.   

Fourth weekend in October:  Celebrate the Feast of San Vincenzo.  On Saturday the statue of San Vincenzo will be carried from the convent to the Chiesa Madre.  There will be a full day agricultural fair – outdoor market to buy/sell peppers, apples, walnuts, celery, chestnuts, and also farm animals.  On Sunday there will be a Processione for San Vincenzo from Chiesa Madre back to the convent.




•Nov 1 – All Saints Day                                                                     



Nov 2 – All Souls Day





Plant grain




November 1st celebrates All Saints Day.  The church is open all day for people to make offerings to the departed souls.  People will bring offerings of grain, ceci, fave, and other legumes to the church where they will be placed into sacs.  The priest will sell these to raise funds for the church.

§November 2nd:  The Priest celebrates mass for all departed souls, everyone visits the cemetery to honour the departed souls – bring a cerrotto (candle) to the graves

§Start to plant grain.



Olive oil                                                  




December 8: Immaculate Conception


•December 13: Santa Lucia •

Natale – presepio, pettole, baccala, Tombola


§Pick olives and bring them to the frantoio (press) to make olive oil.  Customary to sample the new olive oil by toasting bread at the frantoio and drizzling the first few drops of the virgin olive oil on the toasted bread.

§Dec 8:  Celebrate l’Immacolata – feast of the Immaculate Conception – there will be a small festa, but no processione.   Will make nativity scene with handmade clay figures, and moss gathered  from the fields.

§Dec 13: Celebrate Santa Lucia.  Will soak ceci, grain and cook it for several hours and offer it to poor people.  My brothers and sisters remember having this “porridge” for breakfast on the feast day of Santa Lucia.

§During the week of Christmas – will make pettole, panzerotti filled with a sweet chestnut  or ceci filling, also make cartellate.

§Christmas Eve – eat baccala (cod) and other seafood, midnight mass.

§Christmas Day – families gather to play Tombola using orange peel as Tombola markers.

§New Years Eve  –  not a major event.


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