According to the Roman Catholic traditions in Sicily the first two days of November are known as ‘All Saints day’ and ‘All Souls day’ (respectively dedicated to the churches’ canonized Saints and the deceased).
As with most traditions they have become colourfully interpreted by popular culture and anticipated by the thirty first of October, good old fashioned Halloween in the States.
Here in Sicily on the night of ‘I morti’ the dearly departed benevolently pass by to leave gifts to children. It seems quite macabre but yes grandpa Joe or great aunt Milly bring small gifts like candy and toys. At first the whole idea freaked me out but looking at it in the context of this holiday here in Italy it is none other than a method to teach children not to fear death and recall their family heritage.
In the days leading up to Halloween people here are busily visiting their local cemeteries completing a personal family journey visiting all of their dearly departed, cleaning graves, bringing fresh flowers, paying for cemetery plots, lighting up decorative light globes around each grave and generally remembering their dead.
Italian cemeteries become almost beautiful, lit up by endless lights, lit by all the people who want to remember their ancestors.
So why wouldn’t great grandmama be pleased with little Jimmy who brought her flowers? She returns the kindness bringing him new coloured pencils for school.
Jimmy is happy the Morticini (literally a diminutive of ‘the dead’) visited him.