This characteristic procession has been held for centuries in the night between 7 and 8 December each year, starting from the church of St. Francis, where the statue of the Immaculate Conception is preserved. It usually begins at five in the morning with the statue that is carried on the shoulders by young people crossing the streets of the village. As per ancient custom, the men of the village follow the statue and sing devotional songs that roar in the air at the first light of dawn. Once this procession was followed and carried out by the only men of the village who after the procession took the road to the navy to go fishing. Over time then the procession was followed by the whole population even if the tradition of the male presence in the organization has never failed. As to the origins of this feast there are no precise dates to determine the beginning. There are those who think that this type of festival even has its roots in the ancient cult of the goddess Diana and then after the elevation of the Immaculate Conception as protector of the Bourbon navy, in the middle of the ‘700, it has transformed into its current form. In any case, Apart from oral tradition, there are no documents that make clear the origins of this event so dear to Cetara.
During the night of the eve waiting for the processional moment in every house in Cetara prepares the eve dinner all based on fish. There is never a shortage of spaghetti with anchovies and as a main course the cod cooked with various recipes, of course the fried paranza, the typical homemade Christmas cakes including the zeppole “cresciute”, mostaccioli, roccocò etc. Lambiccato wine and dried fruit (figs with walnuts, hazelnuts, roasted chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, prunes, etc.) together with seasonal citrus fruits such as oranges and tangerines and never missed the classic meloncello liqueur.
A special mention to the lambiccato wine which is a sweet wine obtained from local clones of muscat types. It goes well with Christmas cakes. Its color is straw yellow more or less intense and is fragrant and very delicate in terms of palatability. Very elaborate its production. It starts from the muscat grape that is collected and stored in wooden boxes where it is kept until the stalk from green, during the drying phase, becomes brown. It is then pressed and, only after a few days, pressed. Then we move on to the most delicate phase for its production that is filtering in special cotton “caps”, called lambicchi, which drop by drop, allow us to obtain this wine. These bag filters in fact block the alcoholic fermentation so the result is to obtain with this method a white wine, still, low in alcohol and particularly sweet.
An old Cetara proverb referring to the meal of the feast of the Immaculate says: “a ‘Maculat Cuncezione sei ducat ‘o sparaglione” that is, during the pre-Christmas holidays and the following ones also a little used fish and full of thorns such as the gun is sold at an exaggerated price both for lack of fish in the winter and because fishermen take advantage of the festive period to raise the pricing.
Returning to the evening of the eve, a series of bonfires are set up in various parts of the country and on the beach of the Marina that illuminate and warm this cold night. In recent years, moreover, a series of events characterize the evening of December 7 waiting for the “night”, including the presence of a group of local popular music that plays parading through the streets of the country, street artists and stalls of local products and crafts.