All Souls’ Day, November 2nd, is a popular holiday in Italy, dedicated to honouring deceased loved ones. Given that the day centres around the dead, you might expect it to be a sombre occasion. However, in true Italian style, the people of Italy infuse All Souls’ Day with joy through tradition and authentic Italian food. Instead of focusing on grief that accompanies the passing of friends and relatives, the Italian people have transformed All Souls’ Day into a celebration of life – and these are the foods and customs that make the holiday so special.
A Religious Foundation
As with many aspects of Italian culture, All Souls’ Day is rooted in religion. Many families start the day by attending mass to pray for the deceased. They’ll then make a trip to the cemetery to place flowers and candles on the graves of their loved ones. These offerings are symbols of remembrance and honour, and are an important part of the holiday – but this solemnity is often followed by festivities.
The Italian Halloween
If you don’t know much about All Souls’ Day, you can think of it as the Italian version of Halloween. Though children don’t wear costumes or go trick-or-treating on All Souls’ Day, it’s a holiday that kids look forward to immensely. On the morning of November 2nd, children awaken to little presents of sweets and toys said to be left by the souls of the deceased. These gifts are often hidden around the house, and children must hunt for them.
Indeed, sweets and treats are a big part of the holiday. You’re likely to find pane dei morti (‘the bread of the dead’) on every Italian table on All Souls’ Day, as well as ossa dei morti (‘bones of the dead’), spiced almond biscuits that are meant to resemble bones. Another popular treat is frutta martorana, marzipan-based sweets that are artfully crafted to look like gorgeously realistic pieces of fruit.
But Italian food on All Souls’ Day is not limited to massive quantities of sugar. Minestra dei morti is a classic Italian soup served on All Souls’ Day. Traditionally, the holiday came during pig slaughtering season, so the soup was made with an entire pig’s head. Pork is boiled with chickpeas or fava beans, Italian olive oil, vegetables and herbs, then the meat is removed from the pot. The bean and vegetable soup is often served as a first course (primo), and the pork is served the main (secondo).
At Diforti, we love to spread the traditions of Italy by sharing them with our customers – especially when these traditions are as delicious as a slice of pane dei morti! This year, bring the Italian customs of All Souls’ Day into your home, without even having to step foot in an Italian delicatessen in London. Diforti’s Italian deli online has all the Italian sweets, treats and hearty soup ingredients you need to celebrate deliciously, with authentic Italian food delivered straight to you. After all, who can say no to an excuse to consume biscuits and candy galore?