Day of the Dead and “La Festa dei Morti”
The “Festa dei Morti” is among the most important and felt by the people of Palermo, especially by the children who have been waiting for it with anxiety since the previous weeks, when the city is filled with “Mercatini dei Morti” (markets of the dead). In this blog post I will tell you about the “rituals” that are repeated every year in the houses of the Sicilian capital on the occasion of the 2nd of November.
The story wants that in the night between November 1 and November 2 the “dead” to enter the houses of their relatives – in fact in the past, people used to left doors or windows open to let them in! – to give children sweets, cookies and toys, hiding them around the house, or placing them in a locked room. Parents recommend to the children to sleep at night and not to open their eyes, because otherwise “i morti ti grattano i piedi!” (the dead will scratch your feet!).
La festa dei morti on the 2nd of November
On the morning of November 2, the children wake up very early, impatient to look for the gifts that the “dead” brought them during the night. The parents give clues: “I heard noises coming from that room, tonight …” suggesting to their children where to look. Once the door is open, the children are in front of toys, in a table alongside with the “Cannistru”, a basket with martorana fruits, biscuits, chocolates and sweets of all kinds.
As per tradition is also inevitable to have the “sugar pupa”, also known as “pupaccena”, whose origins are uncertain and linked to two legends: the first is that of an Arab nobleman who, fallen into misery and unable to afford expensive food, he offered his guests for dinner this sweet of sugar, which was much appreciated by the guests. The second legend, however, is linked to Henry III of Vaolis and his visit to Venice in 1574, when in his honour and with the sugar brought by the sailors from Palermo, these special sweets were prepared. These sailors, back in Palermo, told of these sweets created in Venice thanks to their sugar and the confectioners from Palermo began to create the “pupaccena”.
For the “Festa dei Morti” not only sweets are consumed; a speciality of this party is the muffoletta, a focaccia stuffed with oil, salt, pepper and anchovies, but there are also variations with ricotta, caciocavallo and tomato, according to personal taste.
Therefore, November the 2nd it is a very special day for the people of Palermo; a day of celebration and tradition that unites the palermitans of all ages, even those scattered around the world and that today they just can not give up the cannistru or a very good Muffoletta!! And you, how do you celebrate la festa dei morti?