Halloween and All Saints Day: Celebrating in Italy

One of my favorite childhood memories is of celebrating Halloween with my 28 first cousins, my sister and our friends all rounded up at grandma’s house for her annual Halloween Party. We’d all dress up – parents, too – and make a campfire, bob for apples, smack around a few pinatas and go on a hayride to the ghost-filled Bragg Road in Honey Island, Texas.

But things are different now.

Italy doesn’t *do* Halloween the way we do back home and gosh darn it-I miss those days!

Halloween around here is comprised of a couple of shelves of cheap plastic store-bought costumes and … no wait. Halloween here has been comprised of a few shelves of cheap plastic store-bought costumes. And nothing more.

Kids rarely trick or treat and no one decorates their homes. It’s a tad sad.

However, tonight Valentino’s Cocktail bar in Catanzaro Lido is hosting a Halloween Party. Customers and staff members are encouraged to dress up and spooky cocktails will be served all night. My husband and I have also been invited to a post-Halloween party on Saturday afternoon.

Are times a changing?

Well, maybe.

The Saturday invite is from a new expat friend who hails from Ireland and whose six-year-old son, she says, WILL celebrate Halloween this year.

All Saint’s Day is another story. November 1, or All Saint’s Day, is a day I never celebrated back home, however, my first year in Italy brought over €200 cash, flowers, pastries and dinner on the town. All. For. Me. Because it is my Onomastico, or my Saint Day.

No, no … you haven’t missed anything. Santa Ciliegia has not been canonized. But on November 1, everyone who wasn’t named after a Saint-although there aren’t too many of them in Italy-celebrate.

So for all of you spooky ghouls and non-Saint-named heathens out there Happy Halloween and enjoy your All Saint’s Day!

What about you? Did you celebrate Halloween or All Saint’s Day growing up? Do you still celebrate it? What are your favorite family traditions?

* Come back tomorrow for my first NaBloPoMo post … 30 days of postings right here on My Bella Vita for the month of November! Also, check out Judith’s peach crisp for la Buona Cucina Americana.

12 Responses
  1. Hi Cherrye-
    Great post about Halloween! Also an expat myself… in Australia. They don’t *do* Halloween here either. I too agree… it is sad. I have fond memories of my childhood. I’ve posted my Happy Halloween blog entry too.


    Have a great, ghoulish Halloween and a great All Saints Day as well!
    Back at you, Erin. I’ll check out your post ASAP! Happy Halloween … ha ha ha (that was supposed to sound evil!)

  2. When I was young we didn’t celebrate halloween in the UK – it’s very different now – lots of people go out ‘trick or treating’. (I think it caught on via people watching American tv shows and films.)

    Nor did I have a saint day – AND hang on a darn minute! Nobody told me I could have one on All Saints Day either!!!
    Girl they were holding out on you! You better tell them you expect to celebrate your day tomorrow!

  3. Carla

    Have fun at the party tonight…should be interesting, a Halloween feast in Catanzaro…are you and Peppe dressing up??

    We always celebrate(d) Halloween, trick or treating and perhaps a party afterwards…not so much All Saints Day though, especially since we (my family) all have Saints names! πŸ™‚ My onomastico is only a few days away and since living in Italy I do make a point to celebrate!

    Happy Halloween!!

    P.S. AUGURI for tomorrow!
    P and I didn’t go to the party in CZ. You know us… we are deadheads. We do plan to go to the party today though – if our guests check in on time!

  4. Hi! Happy Halloween. I am doing NoBloPoMo too! πŸ™‚ I am a little intimidated, but I will keep at it πŸ™‚
    It is a nice challenge… we say on Day 1! lol

  5. j

    Of course we dressed up and went trick or treating. I still like costume parties. We went to one last weekend. I thought the best costume was a guy who dressed as Indiana Jones in search of the lost 401K.
    That is hilarious! I love it. I like costume parties, too but I don’t like being the only one dressed up.

  6. I’ve never heard of everyone without a saint celebrating on All Saint’s Day either…are you sure they didn’t just make that up for you (what other Italian *doesn’t* have a saint?!)? πŸ˜‰
    Nope. It is legit. P’s mom wasn’t named a saint. And you know all of those “gifts” I got 2 years ago, they weren’t just from P. His relatives brought them over, as well. Yesterday we were visiting Italian friends and I said “Hey. Today is All Saints Day.” And instantly they all said, “Auguri!”

    Maybe those of you with saint names never needed to know! πŸ™‚

  7. A funny story regarding cultural differences between us Americans and Europeans: When I was in my 20s, I went to teach English in Hungary. There was a group of about 10 or 12 of us spread out all over the country. We were some of the few American English teachers there; most of their ‘native speaker’ teachers were British, of course, so we also took it upon ourselves to teach about American culture and history.

    My dear friend Kathryn got all excited for Halloween — made special treats, decorated, her classroom, etc. She even pulled the skeleton out of the science room and posted him (it?) next to the front door (I don’t remember whether she decorated him or not).

    Oh heavens cultural misunderstandings!!! when the teachers arrived, they were FURIOUS with her and insisted she return the skeleton to its rightful place right away and take down all the other decorations as well. How DARE she be so disrespectful of the dead?

    Because, of course, Halloween, which is just a secular holiday to us, is really All Hallow’s Eve, the night before All Saints’ Day, which is a very somber day in many European countries (I know it was in Hungary), one where the family makes the pilgrimage to the cemetery to decorate the tombs of deceased family members and pray for them. There was no way in the world to begin to share the American experience without deeply offending the Hungarians.

    I wonder if today things might be different. This was in the early 1990s, and things certainly get more commercialized and Americanized (think Christmas) as time passes. But at least then, in that place, at that time, there was no inkling that there would ever be an opening up to an American-style secular celebration. (I say this all because i can imagine small Italian communities being much the same, very conservative. I wouldn’t dare try to do something like that at my in-laws’ for example!)
    Oh, no … your poor friend! I don’t know about other places in Italy/Europe but they told me that they celebrate “The Dead’s Day” on November 2. We were at church last week and they devoted more time to it and afterwards many people told us they were going to the cemetery. Thanks for sharing that story… just goes to show how an innocent act can be misconstrued!

  8. I disagreed as Halloween has been more popular each year at least it’s true i the states. Halloween is no longer a holiday but it’s a party day. Some dress up for fun and some dress up to impress. I truely love Halloween and that’s why I own a Halloween costumes store. Purecostumes.com
    Thanks for your message. Good luck with your store.

  9. Catherine Andrews

    I disagree with more or less everyone here. I think Hallowe’en is purely a commercial enterprise introduced from the USA and I very much regret that in the UK it’s started to be celebrated in the same way.

    In Italy, 2 November is a day they ‘celebrate’ the lives of departed family members and friends which in my view is far more appropriate. No plastic rubbish in the shops, no unpleasant kids throwing eggs at people who won’t succumb to their ‘trick or treat’ blackmail. Just a visit to graves to place flowers, and a family meal in remembrance. Much more dignified, and it actually means something important as opposed to being just another excuse for shops to make money and kids to dress up and eat too much.

    I very much hope Italy doesn’t follow in the USA’s shoes but sticks with its own, much more appropriate, cultural celebrations.

    I never really thought about having one or the other and I agree the Nov 2 holiday is very tasteful. I don’t think a celebration on Oct 31 is meant to take the place of that.

  10. Vanessa

    Happy onomastico to you tomorrow. It’s mine too. And Oscar’s. Let’s hope there is presents all around, thought at this stage i’d be happy if everyone just got well.

    Not sure what is going on here for halloween. IN NZ we don’t celebrate it either (we do have guy fawkes day which is v cool though on Nov 5th).

    Day of the dead (nov 2) is a BIG day around here. My MIL just went to the cemetery today – to avoid the crowds that will be there on Monday! Hmm wonder if they will be open ALL day (usually it is monrngs only) to accommodate the masses.

    Thanks, V. Hope you and Oscar had a nice day, too.

  11. Many years ago I owned a house in Toronto on a street leading to a cemetery which had affiliations with many of the Italian parishes in the city. The first year I wasn’t prepared for the whole thing – police directing traffic on our dead-end (sorry but it did lead to the cemetery), cars parked up on the sidewalk and throngs of people making their way to visit their loved ones. It had a solemn but festive air which I saw again when I lived in Mexico City and again in Warsaw – though with a slightly Northern reserve – and now here in Italy.

    It really is the way we should remember our dead – with reverence but with joyful remembrance for their existence and lives lived.

    And Auguri for your Saint’s Day today!

    I can imagine your surprise. I’d never celebrated this day before, either.

  12. Judy Mancuso

    At 64 y.o. we are still not too old to celebrate Halloween. On Halloween we competed in a golf tournament in costume. I was a spider web, crawling with spiders. Was fun and worth the price of two mulligans! (took 2nd place in golf) Also, Hawaii is very proud to be celebrating our Saint Damien. Read Molokai, it is wonderful.

    How fun, Judy! Sounds like a great time. Thanks for the rec.

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