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Not many pumpkins but a day off: How Italy marks Halloween

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Not many pumpkins but a day off: How Italy marks Halloween
A barn owl perches on a jack-o-lantern at a zoo near Turin. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP
16:09 CET+01:00
Italy's way of marking Halloween is a little different - and a lot more restrained - than the celebrations readers from other countries like the US and UK may be used to.

While Italians do acknowledge the event, and many people say it's getting more popular, it's much less of a big deal that it is in some other countries.

Trick or treat

Unsurprisingly, Italian children have really taken to the idea of roaming their neighbourhood in creepy costumes demanding sugary treats. So while it's not as ubiquitous as it is in the USA, you may find you get a few mini ghouls or witches knocking on your door come October 31st, shouting "dolcetto o scherzetto!

Many members of The Local Italy's Facebook group told us the holiday here is mainly for children, with shops giving out sweets and villages putting up spooky displays in the piazza.

Adult celebrations mainly involve halloween-themed dinners. Restaurants across the country are increasingly putting on special Halloween dinner menus which are more seasonal than spooky.

A Halloween menu being advertised at an osteria in Arezzo, Tuscany. Photo: Clare Speak/The Local

One place you may find more raucous halloween parties is the city of Florence, which has a sizeable American population.

Italian supermarkets generally stock some Halloween decorations, costumes and candy, and while they'll no doubt be full of pumpkins at ths time of year, the majority of Italians are buying them to cook, not carve.

One exception is the Fucacoste and Cocce Priatorje or “bonfire and heads of purgatory” - a bonfire, feast, and pumpkin-carving competition held on November 1st in Orsara di Puglia, in the southern region of Puglia.

This event, which looks more than a little similar to the western-style Halloween celebrations we're more familiar with, is centuries old.

Public holiday

The good news is that Italians do celebrate the season in much more practical way - by having a day off work.

November 1st, All Saints Day, known as ognissanti or tutti i santi in Italian, is an official bank holiday.

There are absolutely no spooky goings-on. In the south of Italy, where onomastici or saints' name days are observed, November 1st is everyone's name day at once, and so you're supposed to say auguri (congratulations) to everyone you know. Here, many families mark the day with – what else? - a big lunch.

Festa dei Morti

As in many Christian countries, November 2nd is when Italians mark their own All Souls' Day, or Festa dei Morti, the “Day of the Dead”.

Visitors to Rome's Verano cemetery. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP.

The festival of the dead on October 31, which has Celtic roots, was celebrated in some parts of Italy long ago. But in 1000 A.D. the Catholic Church created All Souls' Day on November 2 in an attempt to replace the Celtic festival with a similar. but church-approved, tradition.

Although the date and name was changed, plenty of fascinating old traditions stuck in various parts of the country.

But this isn't a chance to don a scary costume, either. Here in Italy, it's a much calmer day of remembrance, mainly celebrated with prayers, flowers and, of course, food.

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