All Souls’ Day (Commemorazione dei defunti): Exploring the Italian Tradition of Remembering the Departed

November 2nd marks All Souls Day, an ancient Catholic feast dedicated to remembering those who have passed on from this life.

Today, in almost every country around the world, rituals and customs to remember the dead are celebrated with one aim in mind: give some solace to their souls while at the same time providing comfort to living who remember the deceased. This celebration may bring comfort for both parties involved – remembering those we lost or remembering them and living who remember their loved ones who may still suffer loss as we pay our respects to their memory.

Italian Tradition
Italy’s custom of visiting cemeteries to pay our respects to those departed is to bring flowers, particularly chrysanthemums, which are considered the “Flowers of the Dead.”

The key feature of this festival is that its traditions vary across Italian regions. For instance, in Sicily November 2nd is known as “Festa dei Morti” (The Feast of the Dead). According to legend, anciently during this night between November 1st and 2nd the dead visited loved ones by giving gifts. So on November 1st parents put their kids to bed reminding them that if they have been good and have said their prayers they will receive plenty of surprises on November 2nd from dead grandparents or relatives who will visit. Parents then prepare an “u cannistru” full of sweets and pastries while hiding toys all around their house – each family prepares its own traditions during this holiday!

Manfredonia in Apulia also followed this custom: on the night before each feast day’s Eve children hung a pair of socks known as le cavezzette di murte next to their beds so the dead would visit during the night and fill them up with goodies.

Rome tradition dictates that on All Saint’s Day, lunch or dinner should be consumed next to the grave of your dead relative in order to remember them and remain close by their side.

On November 1-2 in certain areas of Lombardy, people place in their kitchen a vase filled with water to quench the dead’s thirst; while in Friuli they leave a lamp lit with some bread and water next to a bucket full of it for them.

No matter what traditions may differ in local traditions, all Italians share one belief on this day: their dearly departed will come visit. In honor of this celebration, graves across Italy are cleaned and decorated during the week preceding Feast day; certain areas in Italy have unique traditions or customs which come from tradition or heritage, honoring those no longer among us who we still care deeply for.

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