Translated by Alanna Quintyne
In this article called “It looks like Halloween, but it isn’t”, I talk about an event that takes place in a small village of Puglia.
It has passed down from year to year to the new generations.
If you are curious, keep reading!
There’s a place in Puglia where there is a very old tradition that is passed down from year to year to the new generations and which also attracts many tourists. It is the “Notte dei fucacoste e cocce priatorje”, which in the local dialect means “The night of bonfires and the heads of purgatory”.
What happens during this night?
On the night between November 1st and 2nd, which practically precedes the Day of the Dead, many fires are lit in the streets of the village and carved pumpkins lit from within are placed on the windowsills of the houses.
This ritual is very old, but it is still an event that is alive and kicking and full of symbolism, which is year after year for a very specific reason. Popular tradition has it that as we approach November 2nd, the distance between the world of the living and the dead diminishes and even disappears completely on the night of the 1st to the 2nd of November.
According to the belief, it is on this night that the souls of the dead return to earth, to the world of the living in order to visit their living relatives and to return to the places where they lived. Lit lanterns guide them back to their homes.
On this night, tradition and the desire to commemorate the dead are mixed with the more earthly and enjoyable aspects of the event. The streets are lined with typical local dishes, especially what are known as i piatti poveri – poor dishes, which in the past were eaten daily by the villagers.
It looks like Halloween, but it isn’t
The presence of carved pumpkins, the nocturnal scenery, and the people wandering through the streets of the village has made some people think that this is the typical Halloween festival celebrated in Anglo-Saxon countries, but it is not. First of all, the date is not the same, as Halloween is celebrated on October 31st, whereas, this event takes place, as previously mentioned, between November 1st and 2nd. Furthermore, there are no masked people in the streets and children do not go around saying “trick or treat!”.
This is a characteristic event of this local tourist village and even beyond. However, apart from this night, November 2nd is a very important date for all Italians, as it is the day on which we commemorate our dearly departed.
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