ROME — In the United States, the start of the fall season brings not only cooler weather and spiced apple cider but the anticipation of Halloween, a holiday cherished by both children and adults. The commercialized activities of children dressing up as frightful creatures trick-o-treating or visiting haunted houses define Halloween in the US.
Yet, as I walk down the streets of Rome, these images and decorations are absent from most storefronts and households. Imagine walking down the street in mid-October and not seeing jack-o-lanterns, skeletons, or witches? Only a few bakeries and bars decorate their stores with ghosts and pumpkins. Instead, Italians recognize the religious holiday of All Saints Day on Nov. 1st as the national holiday, preserving the true meaning of this religious holiday.
This year, All Saints Day falls on a Tuesday so today serves as a “bridge” holiday when all Italian schools are closed. Children, however, rarely spend this holiday finalizing their costumes or trick-or-treating. Although many English-speaking international schools hold small Halloween celebrations, they do not partake in typical Halloween parties held in the United States. Young Italians attend parties or stay out later on Monday night since they don’t have school on Tuesday, and other people use the four-day weekend as a chance to take a vacation.
Catholics around the world, including Italian Catholics, observe All Saints Day by attending Mass, praying the Litany of the Saints and lighting candles. On Nov. 2nd, All Souls Day, Italians remember their own loved ones who have passed and visit cemeteries and place flowers on graves of the deceased. These practices are more common in Italy as Italians have continued to preserve the religious meaning of All Saints Day and All Souls Day, resisting the commercialized aspects of the pagan holiday of Halloween.