Seeing shops, squares, bars geared up for Halloween it is a little difficult to believe that till a decade or two ago Halloween wasn’t really celebrated in Italy. Kids knew about it courtesy of American movies and TV series. Slowly but surely, the Halloween trick-or-treating and costume parties on October 31st has invaded Italy’s larger cities.
What Italians celebrated is a religious festival: “La Festa di Ognissanti”, All Saint’s Day.
1st November , and it is a national holiday. All the Catholic saints are honored, saints which have been worshipped in the Christian faith since the early days of its formation, but it wasn’t until 835 AD that Pope Gregory IV made All Saints’ Day an official Catholic holiday.
Well, on the night of 1st November families prepare for the 2nd November which is All Souls’ Day, “Il Giorno dei Morti.” Throughout Italy it is still possible to find gestures and traditional practices for the celebration of these festivals, especially in the south of Italy. One of the most popular traditions is to leave a tray with food for the dead.
Different regions in Italy, have different traditions related to this festival. For example in the breathtaking island Sardinia, after visiting the cemetery and a Mass, families go back home for dinner, but after the dinner do not clear the table, leaving it for any visiting spirits during the night.
In Puglia, on the 1st November night , it is still usual to lay the table for dinner, with bread, wine and water. These are for the dead who are believed to visit the families on this day. It is believed that they will stay until Christmas or Epiphany.
Pumpkins are integral part of Halloween, in fact it is quite interesting to know how pumpkin has importance also in the celebration in Italy. For example in a small city in the south of Italy Osara, in the province of Foggia, the streets are decorated with pumpkins (“cocce priatorje”): they symbolize the souls.
Well, not only in South but also in North pumpkins have an important role: in Lombardy, in a small town named Bormio, on the night of November 2nd, pumpkins are filled with wines and kept on the windows. In Veneto, people use to put candles inside the pumpkins which are then called “lumere”.
The interesting trick and treat tradition also has a place in the history of Italian customs.
In Sicily, one of the most famous islands of the world, parents often prepare gifts and sweets for children. These are supposedly brought by deceased relatives. Children are told that if during the year they were good and recited their prayers for the souls of the dead, these ones will bring them gifts.
In Abruzzo, a region in central Italy, pumpkins are decorated, and the kids go to the neighbors’ house and ask for gifts for the souls of the dead.
Well, either if you are Italians or if you come from other far away corners of the world, we wish you all: have great fun on Halloween!!