How do we celebrate All Saints’ Day, here in Italy?
First of all, let me just tell you one thing: we do not celebrate Halloween. Ok, I should be more precise: we used not to celebrate Halloween in the past, we have been doing it only lately.
When I was a kid, I had absolutely no clue of what Halloween was, for me it was just a weird celebration you saw in certain American movies or TV series. To be honest, I would never have believed we would end up celebrating it over here too. Probably people just wanted one more reason to have fun and decided it was time to make Halloween a proper feast in Italy as well.
Nowadays, shops are being decorated with carved pumpkins and scary stuff, kids go around asking for sweets and candies – even if, instead of saying “trick or treat”, they scream “dolcetto o scherzetto?” – and adults throw costume parties as they have seen in many TV shows, but Halloween is still not as huge as in the United States, for example.
After all, Halloween does not belong to our tradition, it is just something we borrowed from other countries.
Here in Italy, we celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, on November 1st and November 2nd respectively. All Saints’ Day, Ognissanti in Italian, is the feast of all the Saints of the Catholic calendar and it is a public holiday, exactly like Christmas or Easter. We do not work nor go to school on that day. All Souls’ Day is called Giorno dei Morti in Italian and it is the day when we remember those who have departed.
Actually, both days are devoted to the dead. On November 1st, it is customary to go to Mass and then visit the cemetery. Quite frequently, Mass is held directly at the cemetery, some other times Mass is held in the church and then there’s a procession that takes people to the cemetery, where the priest blesses the dead.
During the last week of October, cemeteries in Italy are quite busy and crowded with people. People clean and prepare graves, decorating them with fresh flowers, and visit the tombs of faraway relatives and friends.
Did you know that chrysanthemums are the flowers of the dead, here in Italy?
I did some research to understand why it is so, but I haven’t found a proper answer. Surely. this must be partly because they are in bloom at the end of October/beginning of November, but I don’t know if there’s another reason for that. Sure is that chrysanthemums are closely linked to the Day of the Dead and no Italian would ever give them as a present to anyone. Keep that in mind if you are coming to Italy and want to give a nice bunch of flowers to someone!
As for every other celebration in Italy, food has its own important role.
Every region has its own typical food to be eaten in such days and Liguria, the region I live in, makes no exception. I actually live on the border between Liguria and Piedmont and this means that our traditions are kinda mixed. For example, on November 1st, we traditionally eat ceci con le costine, a soup made with chickpeas, celery, carrots, onions, tomatoes, and pork ribs, which is typical of Piedmont.
(this is the soup that my mother cooked for lunch on November 1st)
Another kind of food that you can find only at this time of the year is il pane dei morti, a sweet bread made with raisins, crumbled biscuits, flour, eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and chocolate. It is amazing and I can’t wait for October to arrive to look for it at my favorite bakery. If you happen to be in Italy at this time of the year, make sure not to miss it!
(the pane dei morti I bought just yesterday)
Do you celebrate All Saints’ in your corner of the world? Are there certain kinds of food in your country that you can find only at this time of year? Tell me!
If you are looking for interesting ways to practice your Italian daily, I’d suggest you check my brand-new program called Giorno dopo giorno, a daily Italian practice.
If you sign up to Giorno dopo giorno, you will receive an email every other day for 365 days. Each email will contain a prompt, a little exercise, something to watch, read, listen or something that will gently force you to practice your Italian every day, making it part of your daily routine.