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Between Food, Tradition, and Religion

All Saints in Italy

Also known as All Hallows’ Day, Hallowmas, Feast of All Saints or Solemnity of All Saints, this Christian festival is dedicated to the celebration of all the Saints, known and unknown, of the Catholic calendar. It dates back to the 9th century, and is a cherished public holiday by many members of the Christian community.

The Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, the Methodist Church, the Lutheran Church, and other Protestant churches, celebrate All Saints on Nov. 1; the Eastern Orthodox Church and associated Eastern Catholic churches on the first Sunday after Pentecost; Orthodox churches of Chaldea and associated Eastern Catholic churches on the first Friday after Easter.

In the Western Christian practice, the liturgical celebration begins at Vespers on the evening of October 31, All Hallows’ Eve (All Saints’ Eve), and ends at the close of November 1. It is thus the day before All Souls’ Day, which commemorates the faithful departed. In many traditions, All Saints’ Day is part of the triduum of Allhallowtide, which lasts three days from October 31 to  November 2 inclusive.

In Italy, and in other Catholic countries such as Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Chile, France, Hungary, Italy, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malta, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Spain, and the state of Lousiana, on this day people take flowers to the graves of dead relatives.

The way of celebrating this festivity varies from region to region. In Sicily, parents prepare candy and gifts for children, and tell them that they come from their deceased relatives. Parents only give gifts to the children who are good and recite their prayers.

Families make a traditional meal called ceci con le costine soup to celebrate by combining chickpeas, celery, carrots, onions, tomatoes, and pork ribs. Some families in Tuscany use the holiday, All Souls’ Day, to mark the commencement of olive harvesting season. Starting the day after the holiday families spend hours harvesting olives in the groves.

In Tuscany families celebrate with a traditional cake called castagnaccio made with chestnut flower. Another Tuscan family favorite is pane dei santi, also known as all saints’ bread. The bread is made up of raisins, figs, and walnuts. Roasted chestnuts, translated in Italian to caldarroste are also a popular treat.

Although you may not have Italian relatives to visit at the cemeteries you can still spend time with friends and do something to honor your relatives who have passed away in other countries. You are also bound to find music, cultural festivals, and traditional food to celebrate the day. On All Souls’ Day Italians traditional use chrysanthemums to honor their relatives because in Tuscan tradition they symbolize death.

Christian celebration of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day stems from a belief that there is a powerful spiritual bond between those in heaven (the “Church triumphant“), and the living (the “Church militant“). In Catholic theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. It is a national holiday in many historically Catholic countries.