While January signifies the beginning of our calendar, the Cracotan year was a rhythmic cycle that never ended. Unlike society today, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day held no special significance in the Cracotan life cycle which was based not on time but rather the needs of the agrarian calendar and the church cycle.
An understanding of life there was based on two factors:
The Earth: First half of January was busy with the processing of pork –families would kill the pig they had been fattening since October. Women would make soppressata, pancetta, salami, prosciutto, and lard. One of the delicacies made was “sanguinaccë” a type of pudding made with pig blood mixed with raisins, almonds, nutmeg, and other spices.
The Church: Jan 6th— Epiphany but in Craco it is also connected to La Befana. The “Befana” is an old woman, who brings gifts to the good children on Epiphany Eve. Good children would find oranges, almonds, or candy in their stocking. Bad children would find pieces of coal instead. This also marked the beginning of “Carnevale” – a time of feasting and serenades with the “cupa cupa” – a homemade musical instrument.
Of course, for those who immigrated from Craco to the urban environments in North America these traditions changed but are well worth remembering.
Historic Dates in Craco
17 January 1864 -Angelo Altomonte, a National Guard soldier, died in a fire as a result of a conflict with brigands.
Gennaio A Craco Vecchio
Mentre il mese di gennaio ha da sempre avuto come significato l’inizio del nostro calendario solare, l’anno crachese segue un ritmo temporale dinamico senza fine. A differenza della società odierna, secondo i costumi vitalizi crachesi le giornate dell’ultimo e del primo dell’anno non avevano significato alcuno. Ciò era dovuto al fatto che il ciclo di vita stesso crachese non si basava sul tempo ma più che altro sui bisogni del calendario agricolo e dei cicli ecclesiastici.
Per capire a fondo come si viveva laggiù, dobbiamo studiare a fondo due suoi fattori caratteristici, quindi:
La terra: la prima metà del mese di gennaio era spesso caratterizzata dal rito del maiale – le famiglie erano infatti solite sgozzare un maiale dopo quattro mesi circa durante i quali era stato lasciato ingrassare ben bene.
Le donne si occupavano degli insaccati, quindi della produzione della soppressata, della pancetta, del salame, del prosciutto e anche del lardo. Una delicatezza locale erano le “sanguinacce”, miscugli a base di sangue suino con uvetta, mandorle, noci e altre spezie.
La chiesa: il 6 di gennaio è il giorno dell’epifania: a Craco però ciò è connesso all’evento della “Befana”. La “Befana” rappresenta la figura di un’anziana donna, famosa per i doni che distribuisce ai bambini bravi la vigilia della notte del 6 gennaio.
I bambini che durante l’anno si sono comportati bene possono aspettarsi nella propria calza delle arance, delle mandorle o dei dolciumi. I bambini che invece sono stati cattivi riceveranno del carbone.
Questa data segnava in passato l’inizio del “carvnevale”, un momento di gioia ricco di feste, canti e serenate accompagnate dalla “cupa cupa”, un tipico strumento musicale locale fatto a mano.
Chiaramente, la maggior parte di coloro che emigrarono verso l’America e che vivono oggi giorno in ambienti metropolitani non celebrano più le antiche tradizioni, nonostante sia importante farle sempre presenti e non dimenticarle.
Le date storiche di Craco
17 gennaio 1864 -Angelo Altomonte, un soldato della guardia nazionale, viene colpito a morte da un proiettile durante un conflitto a fuoco con i briganti.
In December 1963 one of the most destructive episodes of Craco’s frana event occurred. Contemporary newspaper articles give us an understanding of the events.
The first article appearing on December 7th raises concern with two-thirds of the town being impacted and states: “the situation remains grave …”
December 8th found the following report: “…The landslide…moves slowly …and covers ten acres of land…The houses involved in this area are a hundred. Twenty-five are at risk, so that the mayor has already issued the first evacuation orders…The town is situated…on gravel and clay. It has a population of just over 1700 inhabitants divided into 380 families.”
Then on December 11th the news turned worse: “a dense rain, falling for more than twenty-four hours…the landslide movement…was further exacerbated…The landslide affecting the village has extended to other buildings, so much so that some owners of houses on DeCesare and Alighieri streets reported injuries to their buildings…Craco is on the list of towns to be consolidated at the expense of the state. Approximately eighty percent of the buildings have damages.”
It continued the next day on December 12th: “The rainfall has increased the concerns…the landslide has abruptly moved further…damaged homes increase and orders for evacuation of about forty were issued…It is a painful spectacle: the household goods are transported…from homes… Even those who still have a house in good condition, do not hide their fears.”
On December 16th harsh conditions continued to be reported: “Violent gusts of wind…Craco remained in the dark due to failure of the electricity grid…two more orders for eviction were issued for homes at risk.”
The December 21st articles provide: “Christmas is coming. The people, however, are sad and worried about the serious threat of landslides…Craco residents live in a day by day state of panic…”
Then on December 30th: “News that instead of dissipating fears…has increased. In essence, the landslides are of two different intensities. The first and largest includes the southern facing center of the town and the other is slower but no less worrying. The hopes of a temporary containment are in the large arched wall built along Route 103, which almost surrounds the town. The wall although solid, has a central bulge…and would lead to landslides of significant quantities, the destruction of many homes…The situation…to safeguard public safety…raises many moral and economic problems of considerable scope: Can a small town of 1700 people be evacuated? What would remain of the old town? Absolutely nothing. Then there are serious apprehensions of the owners of houses (cost and the sacrifices of generations), who see their property at risk and do not know if they have adequate compensation or urgent rehabilitation works envisaged by authorities…”
We know the subsequent events and results but also recognize that even after all these years there is a resilient spirit to somehow bring Craco Vecchio a rebirth.
This article was originally published in The Craco Society Newsletter, July 2009.