How Italians Celebrate All Saints Day

How Italians Celebrate All Saints Day

All Saints Day is a religious and public holiday that is celebrated in remembrance of Christian Saints around the world. In Italy, All Saints’ Day falls on November 1st.

Background

All Saints Day, known as Ognissanti or Festa di Tutti i Santi in Italian, is said to have begun in the 4th Century when Greek Christians established a festival on the first Sunday after Pentecost to honour saints and martyrs. Countries in the eastern world still celebrate All Saints’ Day on the first Sunday after Pentecost however in the west it has been suggested that the date of November 1st was chosen in order to supersede the pagan ‘Festival of the Dead’.

In 835 CE Pope Gregory IV authorised All Saints' Day as a public holiday. Note that All Saints’ Day is not a public holiday in every country which it is celebrated.

Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi

All Saints Day in Italy

Activities

As public institutions and businesses such as banks, post offices and schools are not operating around Italy, people will usually start their day by meeting with friends and family. Everyone wishes each other well by exchanging good will and some will give gifts, especially to those friends or members of the family who share the same name as a saint - this is called ‘onomastico’ or your ‘name day’.

Some Italians choose to enjoy a long weekend whilst others will attend services at churches around Italy. In Rome, for example, the Pope holds a large Papal Mass that is open to the public. The Liturgical colour for All Saints’ Day is white, which is intended to symbolise light, innocence, purity, joy, triumph and glory.

Food

All Saints’ Day is a feast day so friends and families will sit down for a meal. What is eaten varies between Italy’s regions, however as All Saints’ Day is celebrated in Autumn there are a few seasonal delights that are common across Italy; expect roasted chestnuts, pumpkin risottos, and truffles.There is another delicacy that you will only find only at this time of year called il pane dei morti. It’s a bread made with flour, sugar, eggs, crumbled biscuits, raisins, cinnamon, and chocolate. If you’re in Italy keep an eye out at bakeries for this sweet bread as it’s particularly tasty.

All Saints Day in Venice

In Venice it is customary for Venetians to visit the cemetery island of San Michele to lay flowers, usually chrysanthemums, at the graves of loved ones.

Graveyard on the Island of San Michele, Venice

Don’t worry, although public institutions and some businesses are closed on All Saints’ Day it is still possible to visit Italy at this time.

For more information on public holidays and travelling in Italy contact our English speaking team who would be happy to answer any queries you might have.