Wednesday, 2 November 2016

All Souls. Tutti i Morti. A Sicilian Tradition

"Quick to bed" my Grandad would say. The night before 'All Souls' was such an exciting time for us kids. The long corridor I could see from my bed that led to the dining room, seemed even longer and darker. 

The event of that night would unfold in that 'special room' in the morning. The light shining through its glass doors looked even brighter. Shadows would float around the room and it seemed like the souls of our dear ones were all around us. 

It was a night filled with thrill and wonder. My Grandad would kiss us goodnight and remind us to fall asleep as soon as possible so our dear departed could finally appear and surprise us for yet another year. Not much was asked of us, we were told to remember them constantly in our prayers and to keep them alive in our memory. 

Falling asleep was very hard and the more we tried the more the giggles would start. We weren't scared, but I remember agreeing I would pray for them as long as they didn't show up in my room... they always kept their promise. 

The morning would start VERY early... the smell of strong coffee, the light in the dining room was still on. Were our 'dear dead ones' still there? We couldn't wait to see the surprise they had prepared for us. Our eyes were fixed on the closed doors... then a voice, my Grandfather would warmly invite us to meet him there.

As we opened the doors the smell of sugar and wrapping paper would hit you especially strongly so early in the morning... before our eyes was the beautiful table laid by our MORTI.
On it there were presents, sweets, biscuits, marzipan in the shape of fruit, apples, pomegranates, dates, walnuts and chestnuts and of course 'la pupa di zucchero'... pure sugar in the shape of a doll. 

Our dear departed had done it again, they had quietly sneaked in unnoticed and left us gifts to make sure their presence would not be forgotten. 

Pupa di Zucchero

As the morning progressed it was soon time for Mass and of course the annual family visit to cemetery where fresh flowers were brought and laid on the tombs as thanksgiving for their life and prayers were sent up to heaven.

37 years later though the tradition is dying out in Sicily, being swept away by the inexorable rise of the American tradition of Halloween, I'm doing my best to keep it alive in my english-looking house. Yesterday around the rooms of a flat in London the same excitement that I once experienced as a child, was to be found, the same thrill, the same hope, the same joy. 

The beauty of Christian tradition is that it passes on the benefits of the faith from one generation to the next. It was once my grandfather who kept and passed on 'La tradizione dei Morti' ensuring that all the people who had preceded us to (hopefully) the Fathers' house would not be forgotten in our prayers and would stay vivid in our memory. Today this beautiful communion of the Church militant, the Church suffering and the Church triumphant becomes clear. Together with our children we now pray for him and all our dear departed ones, hoping that one day our children will pray for us with their children and their children's children.

Tavolo dei Morti


I biscotti dei Morti

Here are some questions for you:

1. How do you celebrate the All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day feasts?
2. What was your favourite costume as a kid growing up?
3. What candy are you most likely to “test for safety” from the kiddo’s loot?


  1. What lovely traditions! The sculpted goodies look like so beautiful.

  2. Not being Italian, I've never heard of this tradition, but how lovely! It's definitely a tradition that shouldn't be allowed to die out. Everyone needs to celebrate this! Thanks for sharing!