November 2, 2009

Halloween in Italy: not such a cliche to celebrate an American holiday

Marsciano Storefront, Italy
Marsciano Storefront, Italy
Photo by artnbarb,

Just a few years ago not many Italians were celebrating Halloween, if at all. Now, even nearby neighbors join in Italians in with Italians in the celebration of a popular American holiday, because in their motherlands, they do not throw lavish celebrations. Every year we see more and more signs that Halloween is slowly becoming part of Italian culture!

Not such a Cliche in Italy

Forty days before the day of Halloween, Italy is celebrating a very well-known and widely celebrated across the country holiday – “Carnevale,” when kids dress up, go out, throw confetti and play innocent practical jokes on everyone. It runs about one week, during which children in Italy stuff themselves with pumpkin risotto and porcini mushrooms – just like kids do with candies and other sweets in the United States.

However, over the last decade, Halloween has been becoming more popular in Italy, and Italians now look both online and offline for Halloween costumes and decorations, just as they always did in preparation of “Carnevale.”

Although Carnevale is still a much bigger holiday and celebration (traditionally and historically), Halloween is becoming more prominent and anticipated each year, but this draws some controversy into the laps of religious authorities in Southern Italy. Halloween is starting to develop a superior influence over Italy's 'Day for the Dead' on November 2nd. A large majority of Italians would like to see Halloween become a national holiday in Italy, but still many disagree with its meaning and roots.

Even though the holiday is believed to be invented in America, its roots go deeper – they lead to Europe as the first settlers were from Europe. The holidays that came around at that time were more or less created or re-created by Europeans. In the 19th century, immigrants from Ireland and Scotland brought their customs with them from their homelands, and kept them alive for years after.

Europeans Always Honored the Dead

It was common in Europe to have a day in celebration to honor the dead. The Romans celebrated the "Feralia" in their honors to the dead.

First - "All Saints Day", Now – Halloween Is As Popular

The holiday that was invented by Pope Boniface IV to replace the pagan holiday with one of Catholic roots, all in respects for the deceased. This could be more or less compared to ‘Halloween’ celebration until the actual Halloween arrived in the 80's. This was when American horror movies earned its popularity in Europe. Halloween celebrations in Italy first started with the adults, and over time moved onto kids’ Halloween parties and parades at schools.

Italians today still recite the fact that Halloween does not have any strong meaning for them. They don't yet take it seriously, could be for reasons of their Catholic beliefs. Slowly though, as masked parties are being held in Italy, and great fun is being had, the holiday continues to grow and become a bigger part of the Italian culture.

Do Italians Go Trick-or-Treat?

Not many Italian children in Italy are familiar with the trick-or-treat tradition. They still do not go door to door. Nevertheless, Halloween has taken to Italy in a positive fashion by many, although there is still many other local traditional holidays that play a more prominent role in the lives of Italians, and it would just some more years (and some more popular Halloween movies) for Halloween to be accepted and practiced also around all regions of Italy.

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