Today is All Souls Day, a holiday almost entirely overshadowed by Halloween and All Saint’s Day, that commemorates the dead. Being in a very Christian country, “The day of the Dead” is definitely not something to be taken lightly. My curiosity has gone into overdrive these last couple of days, and I was especially curious on how Halloween was celebrated in Italy. The idea of “Trick or Treating,” or as Italians like to call it “Dolcetto o Scherzetto” has just recently become popular, mainly in the bigger cities; and trying to find adult sized Halloween costumes is almost impossible…not that I tried very hard. Considering the fact that seeing adults dressed in ridiculous outfits has been, until recently, reason to send them to an Asylum, we expected quite a few comments.
So when Britta and I walked into a small tabaccheria before a “pre-Halloween” party from fellow classmates, the barman couldn’t help but tease Britta, who had drawn cat-whiskers, and promptly quizzed her:
“Come si dice dolcetto o scherzetto in Americano?” “How do you say ‘Trick or Treat’ in American?” Naturally, we were able to answer, and got free chocolate! I have to admit, it’s my fault that the tabacchaio started to tease Britta. She came into the tabaccheria (a place where they sell everything, from phone cards to cigarettes, to candy and coffee) with a scarf covering her face to avoid that exact situation. So when the worker looked at me with a raised eye-brow, I couldn’t refrain from explaining that she drew whiskers on her face for Halloween and didn’t want people to see. Laughing and teasing ensued, along with the aforementioned free chocolate.
Maggie, the hostess, pulled out all of the stops, with help from her roommates and other friends from the program, serving chocolate cupcakes with amazing orange colored frosting, PB&J, and other delicious treats. It was definitely a Halloween party, American style. Another party, on the day of Halloween, was just as American, or Midwestern to be more precise, with a scattering of students from all around the world, and our wonderful Italians. The most interesting part of Halloween, for me, was learning all of the different superstitions and myths found in Italy. Here are some of my favorite:
Black Cat: Of course, the black cat is a very prominent superstition in America as well as in Italy; however, have you ever heard of someone while driving, saw a black cat cross the road in front of them, and subsequently stopping and waiting for a car to pass them so that they wouldn’t receive the bad luck caused by the cat?! Ridiculous…but a true story from a friend in Florence.
Toasts: You must never toast with a glass of water, and you must always look in the person’s eyes or else you’ll receive 7 years of a bad love life.
13: The number 13 is actually lucky in Italy! 17 is bad luck! Supposedly, and I have only heard this from one person, but 17 written in roman numerals is XVII, and rearranged it is VIXI, latin for “I lived,” which was commonly written on tombstones.
Shoes or Hats: You must never put new shoes on the bed or table. It brings back the idea that in the past, the dead used to be laid out on the bed/table in order to pay respects, and they would be dressed in new shoes. Doing so will bring bad luck for it is said that “you are tempting death to come over.” (In some places, it goes for hats as well.) So don’t tempt death and keep your shoes off of the table!
Nuns: Supposedly, if you seen a nun you must quickly ward of bad luck by touching iron: the italian version of “knocking on wood” or “touching wood” for you Brits! You can also yell “Your Nun!” to a person nearby and thereby pass on the bad luck to them.
The reason being, nuns were normally only seen at funerals and hospitals: two places you do not want to be.
Finally, and most interestingly, is the “Malocchio.” The “Evil Eye,” can be anything from giving or receiving a dirty look, or sometimes, a compliment that shows jealousy. It is said that giving a compliment is a way of tempting the spirits, and either you must wear the “corno” a horn-shaped charm, or perform the typical hand-gesture by pointing your pinkie and index fingers downward as you “push-away” the bad luck. Make sure that your fingers are facing downwards, because if they are facing up, it means that your significant other, has or is cheating on you.
I could go on and on, but should end this entertaining form of procrastination.