The following article, written by Jessica Phelan, appears on The Local.
Italy’s fascinating All Souls’ Day traditions
In Sicily, children hunt for treats left by loving relatives no longer around.
In northern Italy people leave their homes empty in case the dead want to visit.
All over the country, Italians set an empty place at the table for people who no longer sit there.
They’re all part of Italy’s centuries-old tradition of taking November 2nd to remember the dead.
In Italy as in many other Christian countries, the day after All Saints’ Day is All Souls’ Day – and here it’s celebrated with prayers, flowers and, of course, food.
For many Italians, the most important act of remembrance is visiting loved ones’ graves. Cemeteries see an influx of visitors on or around November 2nd, when it’s time to tidy up the family plot and decorate tombs with candles and fresh flowers.
The traditional choice of bloom is brightly coloured chrysanthemums: the autumnal flowers are at their peak around All Souls’ Day and Italians associate them with mourning.
Far from being a sombre affair, for many people the graveside vigil is an occasion to thank their ancestors, a celebration of their lives and a chance for adults and children alike to chat to them as if they were still here.
In Rome there was even a custom to eat a picnic at the graveside, a way of sharing a meal with dead loved ones. Continue reading at The Local.