Although today’s Halloween originally came from the United States, there were some religious traditions in Italy which held similar customs. In this article, we’ll be taking a quick trip through time to unveil the basic history of this spooky holiday…
Halloween lasts three days?
The Italian tradition includes All Saints’ Day (November 1st), known as Ognisanti, and the Day of the Dead (November 2nd), il giorno dei morti. These are both national holidays dedicated to the remembrance of those who have passed away. On these days, you’ll find that families usually visit local cemeteries to pay respect to loved ones and others who they revered, gifting fresh flowers and prayers. So though Halloween doesn’t hold historical significance in Italy, it can be considered a modern celebratory prelude to more deep-seeded traditions.
Treat or treat?
According to Mamma Maria, one of our resident Italians, some regions in Italy once used the phrase ‘Per l’anima dei morti?’ (for the souls of the dead) instead of ‘dolcetto scherzetto!’ (trick or treat).
This tradition was most common a long time ago, before the Americanized version of Halloween reached Europe. It was most popular in poor areas, where the lower class wore masks to hide their identity when knocking on the doors of the rich. Instead of candy, they’d receive a variety of food from the wealthy (including apples, corn, nuts and chestnuts). These foods could be stored easily, and sustained the poor through the harsh winter months with low harvest. In exchange for this food, the poor would pray for the dead souls of the charitable rich families.
Not about the pricetag
Nowadays, Trick or Treaters in Italy wander around the local streets, often visiting local shops! Some of these shops give out small bags of treats, or let children pick a small item to take home. Speaking from personal experience, this is a fun adventure for Italians of all ages!
Interested in Italian culture? Take a peek at our History of Italian Cinema and Society course!
About the Author:
Sara is interning with ISI Florence through ISI Abroad as part of her gap year experience. As an aspiring English major and experienced traveler, she will be your guide this fall to help you plan for a semester in Florence, Italian style.