The night of the Cucibocca: the Epiphany of Southern Italy

That of the night of the Cucibocca is a custom typical of the small and picturesque Montescaglioso, tiny hamlet in the province of Matera, in Basilicata . The event is celebrated on horseback between the 5th and 6th of January and replaces the vigil for the visit of the “Befana”, who is loved by the children as bearer of gifts, and who in the rest of Italy is considered as a typical symbol of the Christian epiphany.

The night of the Cucibocca is the night between the 5th and the 6th of January. It recurs, not by chance, during the Christian epiphany. The Cucibocca parade starts from the abbey of San Michele in Montescaglioso, a small town in the area of Matera and, like every year, categorically forbids the presence of children. The characters start dressing up, in fact, a few hours before the procession and this takes place in total secrecy, since it is essential that, once the parade starts, no one can recognize the characters.

The Cucibocca: Origins of the legend


The symbolism and legend that lie at the base of the night of the Cucibocca are not yet very clear. It would seem to be a combination of several factors. The Cucibocca in fact are meant to reincarnate the souls of Purgatory who are returning to visit their loved ones. During the evening, moreover, it is traditional to eat the “9 Bocconi ( of the Cucibocca“, or nine very precise dishes that are prepared year after year. The food is light and poor, because the epiphany marks the end of the Christmas festivities and the beginning of what for Catholics should be a more restrictive eating period, related to Lent.

What happens on the night of the Cucibocca?

The night of the Cucibocca, a group of men and young boys from the village meet up to disguise themselves with scary masks of gloomy appearance and go knocking from door to door of the houses of the village. The Cucibocca, dressed in a long black mantle, carry a disc of straw from the mill on their heads and have a scruffy and dirty look. Around their ankles they carry broken chains that drag behind during the procession, creating a loud and jarring noise. They walk with a big needle in their hands and threaten to sew the mouths of the naughty children. They knock on the door asking for gifts (as opposed to the Befana who, instead, brings them). Finally they disappear into the night and the children, terrified but at the same time amused, close themselves in their rooms in silence to allow the befana to visit their houses during the night.

The night of the Cucibocca in Montescaglioso 2019


Like every year Montescaglioso, of which we have just told you about, is the main stage for the night of the Cucibocca, with the highly anticipated procession for the Epiphany. The event will be held from 7:00p.m. The Cucibocca will appear from the Abbey of San Michele and begin to spread out along the streets of the center, until about 8.30p.m. From this moment onwards, the figures of the Cucibocca will begin to “colonize” the Cloisters, and allow children accompanied by their parents to challenge their fear and try to find out who lies behind the fearsome masks so loved but at the same time so fearful.

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