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  • Halloween in Italy
    Discover how Italy is making the American holiday its own
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    Halloween in Italy used to be Carnevale, also known as Fat Tuesday, which marks the start of Lent and is cause for a big celebration all over Italy and especially in Venice. It used to be that Italians, especially children, dressed up in costume and ate what Americans would call funnel cake and other sweets for Carnevale. They played harmless tricks on one another and all was right with the world.

    As Italians become ever more American, they have taken to celebrating Halloween on Halloween and on Carnevale. There's never enough to celebrate for Italians, and Halloween is a great excuse for yet another party.

    "Italians love festivals, so any excuse for a festival is good," writes Martha Bakerjian, the guide to Italy Travel for About.com in an e-mail. "They have a long carnival tradition, so they like costumes and masks, I think."

    That might be part of it. But my Italian husband tells me that Halloween became more popular in the last few years because of American movies that featured people dressing up, taking to the streets, and having big parties. It looked like fun, he says.

    Indeed, it is fun. Orange and black decorations can be found in the windows of some Italian stores in October. While All Saints Day and All Souls Day on Nov. 1 and 2 respectively remain religious holidays of more importance than Halloween, Italians are taken with the macabre holiday. "Halloween costumes and decorations are on display in shop windows and can be found in many stores," writes Bakerjian in an article on the About.com Italy Travel Web site. "Children's costume parties are mainly held during the day, but in the evening many nightclubs, bars, and restaurants now advertise special Halloween costume parties."

    Of course, Italians put their own spin on Halloween. Whereas you might dress up like a princess or famous soccer player for Carnevale, you would choose something scarier such as ghost or vampire for Halloween. Along Via Roma in my family's native Ischia, an island off the coast of Naples, Italian children parade past the stores, whose owners sometimes dole out candy for Halloween. Just how does one say, "Trick or treat," in Italian? You would say, "Scherzetti o dolcetti," which is pronounced "skairzetee oh dolchettee." For now, few, if any children, actually go trick or treating. But it's gaining a following, and kids the world over like the idea of free candy.

    At school, my Italian nieces made pumpkin decorations and ate treats with their classmates last Halloween. Still, Halloween in Italy is more for adults than kids, writes Kyle Phillips, the guide to Italian Food for About.com, on his site. Indeed, many an Italian nightclub hosts Halloween costume parties, where guests put on masks and drink and dance the night away. Much like the United States, there are simply never enough sexy witches on the dance floor.

    Carnevale remains number one in the hearts of Italians. And Bakerjian says Halloween in Italy is not yet special enough to merit traveling there. "It would be better to go for other festivals," she writes in an e-mail. "Day of the dead, following Halloween, is when Italians take flowers to the cemeteries, which is so very beautiful."

    The bottom line: If you happen to visit Italy during Halloween and feel like sharing your traditions with the Italians, they'll probably embrace all you share. They love a good party, and they are smitten with most things Americana.

    Di Meglio is the Guide to Newlyweds for About.com, and you can learn about her life and work in Italy and the United States at the Two Worlds Web site.


    Article Published 9/20/10

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