In Italy, November is perceived as the first real autumn month, and it comes with the whole array of fall complements: foliage, warm colors, chestnut carts popping up in city centers, and holidays. Italians traditionally celebrate Ognissanti (All Saints’ Day) on November 1 and Giorno dei Morti (All Souls’ Day) on November 2. But it’s time to add Halloween to the list. Once perceived as American and not really mainstream, Halloween is now steadily part of the Italian festivities: Its trick-or-treats, jack-o’-lanterns, and costume parties have fully conquered Italians, especially kids. Halloween has definitely gained the status of younger sibling of the definitive long-time costume holiday, il Carnevale.
Halloween has become more and more popular in Italy since the 1980s. Now, similar to what happens in the United States, at the beginning of October, you’ll start seeing jack-o’-lanterns and spiderwebs on windowsills and shop windows. On Halloween day, schools organize parties for kids, and clubs do the same for adults later in the day. House parties are not a thing (yet), but neighborhood trick-or-treats are becoming more and more common, often involving local stores. Halloween costumes have a mandatory spooky vibe to differentiate them from Carnival costumes, which can be of whatever type. So Italians might be late to the party, but they have embraced Halloween with all their fear love.
November 1st (Ognissanti) & November 2nd (Giorno dei Morti)
Ognissanti, or Tutti i santi, falls on November 1 and is a public holiday in Italy. It is followed by Giorno dei Morti, which is not a public holiday, although schools are sometimes closed if it happens to fall next to the weekend. These days are to be devoted to honoring saints and to praying and thinking about dear ones who have passed away. Traditionally, families visit cemeteries and bring crisantemi (chrysanthemums) to the graves of deceased family members and loved ones. Contrary to the United States, where chrysanthemums are regarded as cheerful, in Italy and other European countries they symbolize death—one explanation being that they bloom around the end of October or beginning of November, in conjunction with All Souls’ Day. Beyond these specific traditions, Italians generally associate these holidays with visiting or spending time with family.
Thanksgiving (no), Black Friday (yes)
Halloween might have crossed the pond, but Thanksgiving remains a classic American holiday. There’s nothing like that in Italian culture, although Italians are definitely familiar with the notion of Thanksgiving dinner, thanks to countless movies and TV series. Every Italian has at one point wondered about il tacchino (the turkey), with “How big is it?” being the first and foremost question.
Italy has embraced Black Friday instead. There’s no store without its Black Friday deals, although they are hardly are as advantageous—nor do they have “entire store, no exclusions” deals—as in the United States. And there are no endless lines starting the night before or anything like that; Italians are still used to waiting for final season sales.
Cyber Monday—also imported from the US calendar—marks the end of the November holidays and special days, and soon afterwards—specifically, on December 8—Italians inaugurate their official holiday season.
By Claudia Quesito