Halloween in Italy? But what about the day of the dead ?

Halloween, through the influence of film and marketing is now widely known and celebrated in Italy as well. But there is a more traditional holiday in Italy, that is celebrated on the 2nd of November. The "day of the dead" or, in Sicilian, "U juornu re muorti"...

This is the day when the church remembers with special celebrations those who are no longer alive, people visit the cemetery taking flowers and candles to the graves of dead relatives and friends, and children find presents `brought' to them by the "muorti".

As in other parts of the world, for example Mexico for `El dia de los muertos' or Japan for `Obon festival', it is a day dedicated to life and the family. The various traditions of the "iuornu re muorti" express the Sicilians' strong attachment to life and to their families, both those who are alive and those who are no longer with them. This is especially visible in the traditions that involve children since they create and reinforce links between them and those members of the family that are not alive anymore.

Until a few decades ago, this was in fact the only celebration of the year when children received presents, usually sweets and toys. Today there are many other occasions during the year (Christmas, Epifania, Birthdays, etc.) and the tradition risks to loose its strength. However, many families still keep it alive. Parents tell their children that if they behave correctly, "i bonarmuzza re muorticieddi" (the good souls of the dead) might bring them presents. On the 1st of November, children go to bed in the hope to be remembered by dead members of the family while parents prepare the presents and hide them around the house. One of the traditional saying for the children to ask for many presents is this:

"Armi santi, armi santi,
Io sugnu unu e vuatri siti tanti
Mentri sugnu 'ntra stu munnu di guai
Cosi di morti mittitiminni assai."

"Holy souls, holy souls,
I am one, and you are many,
While I am in this world of troubles,
Bring me lots of presents from dead people"

The morning after the search begins as soon as they wake up and after having found them they get ready to go to visit the cemetery. This is not a sad day in any way; it is a day where `two worlds' meet to celebrate life. As usual with Sicily, food is a big component of this festivity and traditions vary from town to town, the most common are "pupi i zuccaru", frutta marturana e "ossa ri muortu".

For Eventi Halloween in Italia check Un Evento - Eventi in Italia

Written on
November 9, 2004
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