The first couple of days of November are treasured by the Italians. Celebrations are anxiously awaited and are full of Italian tradition. The 1st of November, All Saints’ Day, is a religious and national holiday known as “Tutti i Santi”, which is dedicated to honoring all of the saints. All Saints' Day is followed by “Il Giorno dei Morti”, or The Day of the Dead, on the 2nd of November, a day devoted to celebrating the loved ones who have passed away. This is not a sad day in any way. It is a day where 'two worlds' meet to celebrate life.
Parents tell their children that if in fact, during the year were good and recited prayers for the souls of the dead, the souls of the "dead" will bring them presents. Children go to bed with the hopes to wake up to find presents left for them from “i muorti”. One of the traditional sayings for the children to ask for 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."
As usual with Sicilians, food is a big component of this festivity and traditions vary from town to town. One of the most renowned treats that is made for this occasion is Frutta di Martorana, which are marzipan sweets made of almond paste that are expertly crafted to look like fruits and vegetables.
On occasion you will find some crafted into unexpected shapes, like fried eggs and brioche stuffed with what looks to be gelato, but is actually crafted out of almond paste.
Sweets called Bones of the Dead or "ossa ri muortu" are cookies that are either biscotti shaped into bones or a very dry meringue resembling white bones.
Although Halloween is not traditionally celebrated in Sicily, it is creeping into the scene here and there.
I was lucky to be in Taormina on October 31st, and was delighted to see children trick-or-treating. Seeing little ghouls and witches popping into the boutique shops to collect candy from the shop owners made for a fun stroll along the Corso Umberto.
Even some grown-up "kids" got into the action with their brightly colored pumpkin costumes.