Luminaria di San Domenico
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Every year Praiano hosts a five days of light games, fire works and lights installations that make the town shine like a night sun.
This tradition dates back to 1599 when Dominican monks came to Santa Maria a Castro convent, indeed the lights and fire that burn all over Praiano are meant to commemorate the birth of Saint Domenico.
Legend says that when Domenico’s mother was pregnant with her son, she had a vision of a dog holding a burning torch in his mouth, which announced to her that her son would have spread God’s word all over the world.
Since 1606 locals took up the habit to celebrate the Saint by evoking his holy light burning harvest leftovers and alla sorts of candles all over town.
As many other religious celebrations, the Luminaria also corresponds to the harvest year, as the burning of the vine twigs, of the leaves and of the straw indicates the end of one season and thus the beginning of a new one, the earth made more fertile by all the ash accumulated on these nights. With the spreading of electricity and the decline of local agriculture this celebration had ceased to be as spectacular as it was at its origins, indeed light bulbs had almost totally replaced torches and bonfires, but obviously the result was much less impressive.
However since 2001 the municipality of Praiano decide to restore the celebration to its former grandeur.
For this reason in the last years, the Luminaria has been an occasion for great fire installations, and show, as well as recuperating the ancient rituals of lighting torches and candles all over Santa Maria a Castro’s square.
Nowadays the Luminaria di San Domenico lasts from the 30th of July until the 4th of August, with specific events for each night and then with the traditional conclusive Domini Canis when the whole town lights lanterns to shine up the sky with God’s word.
The Luminaria involves many artists who make all sorts of shows involving fire and light, on the first night of the celebration there are shows with acrobats, fire-eaters, dancers who liven up the streets of Praiano with incredible acts. Then on the second day, there is usually space for special celebrations remembering local or national events.
On the evening of the 1st of August, Santa Maria a Castro’s and San Gennaro’s bells announce the beginning of the actual celebration, and the whole square in front of the convent lights up with candles and torches.
By this time, all of Praiano’s terraces, balconies and windows are lit with colorful candles and torches. The second evening of the night lights sees the square all lit again and the streets filled with food and market stalls. The third evening continues much alike the previous ones, the whole night filled with special events and fire performances.
Then on the 4th of August the day begins very early at 6 am with a procession of the statue of Saint Domenico starting from via Croce.
Then at 7 am a mass is celebrated in Santa Maria a Castro to be followed by yet an other mass with the archbishop of Cava and Amalfi. The Luminaria of Saint Domenico ends with a last mass at 8 pm and then the traditional lighting up of lanterns lighting up Praiano’s summer as an homage to Saint Domenico’s mother’s vision.