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Defuncts Commemorations and Parties in Sicily
(2nd of November)

The traditional uses, the beliefs and the superstitions I am about to explain recall the blessed years of the childhood, when imagination created worlds full of fantastic beings, dreams, now good and sometimes ugly, but always full of poetry. Years passing on without conscience, and that unfortunately which will not return anymore when they will be understood.
Mario Grifasi
The notion of Party of the Corpses (November 2) that results from the pages here it's drawn from:
Shows and Sicilian popular parties
described by Giuseppe Pitré.
« Library of the Sicilian popular traditions », vol. XII, Palermo.
Luigi Pedone Lauriel Publisher, 1881.

Called in Sicily « íornu di li morti », or simply « li morti», the 2nd of November, in which the Church with pious ceremony does solemn commemoration of the dead ones. In that days many Palermitanis go to visit out The Capuchin Catacombs at Porta Nuova, where for ancient customs the corpses' skeletons, ravvoltis in black cloths, hang attached to the walls or they are in niches exposed to the eyes of the visitors, among which the joined survivors send every year for this day wax candles to ignite from now on to this or to that relative.
Or of the souls of the pierced relatives the easy belief of the common people has done for the little boys of the beneficent geniuses. In the night from 1st to 2nd November the corpses leave their scary abode, and in crowd or alone they go down in the city to steal from the richest pastry cook, merchants, tailors etc., sweets, toys, dressed new and how much other is them corpses, the intention is to give their relatives, that are to the little boys good states in the year, that has devotedly begged them, that has done for them some abstinence: it is an innocent theft, that empty dad's borsello, of mother, of grandfather and goes to the fierantis, of the sellers that is like that playthings, assembled in a fair now improvised in a place, now into another, but mostly in a populous site of the city. It is not unlikely that this fair once was held in the public market that from we now called Vucciria, because from the little boys it wonders the corpses for that evening are of all to the Vuccíria; and a consecrate proverbial sentence for the recurrence of the Corpses says: « Sapiri the Vucciria », that means to know what the corpses gave (general name of the gifts that do to their children) are not soon already given by the souls of the pierced ones, but on the contrary from the alive: and therefore to know this attractive deception, and for figurative, to be aware, crafty and malicious. And from here it is born that nobody is able to pretend to the «
cosi di morti » that knows the street of the Vucciria, and if it knows it it needs that face the sights not to know if it wants to be treated with gifts.
When it draws near the party, children look for whom will have to go to the Vucciria to talk to the corpses in their favor; and if not good stan, they are threatened that him it won't go to the Vucciria, it won't be made any recommendation, he won't talk to the corpses. Who believes it cries and goes sad and promises to amend him; and who no, with a certain malicious smile and with certain looks that in the little boys means a lot, not if it brings big fact of it. For the more one it promises to go to talk to the corpses who has intention or is supposed to make some gifts; so explains the proverb on the party of the corpses:

«Si nun vennu li morti, nun camminanu li vivi, » or « Vennu li morti pri camminari li vivi ».
* (it is also told: « Dddopu li morti caminanu li vivi ». - PITRE'<, « Sicilian Proverbs », vol. III, p. 68).
It is already the expected evening and children, the little boys don't have rest; they go well soon also in bed among timid and hopeful. Moms say their prayers, prayers or others « cose di Dio », and the so effective paternosters don't miss because the corpses don't do merchant ears. The childish prayer is this:

Armi santi, armi santi,
Io sugnu unu e vuatri síti tanti:
Mentri sugnu 'ntra stu munnu di guai
Cosi di morti mittitimìnni assai.
Meanwhile the rascals go for the roads shouting in mournful thunder and prolonged:
Li morti vennu e ti grattanu li pedi! »
And here  you would see the little boys make themselves tiny, to crouch for fear of the corpses, fear that doesn't hurt, that doesn't even pick the vermin's that the Sicilian mothers are accustomed to find in every serious illness in every light indisposition of their children. Palpitate trepidation's, hoping they shake; but they also hold closed their eyes not to be sorry to the corpses or not to get frightened /themselves of their sight. Then the finally comes sleep, and all dips in the depth silence of the night. The corpses go out of the cemeteries and they enter city. As in past cemeteries they were for the more within the convents of the Cappuccinis, so the corpses they are accustomed to depart from that convents. In Cianciana however they go out of the Convento d S. Antonino dei Riformati, they cross the plaza and they reach the Calvary with one prayer of theirs to the Crucifix, they go down to Carmelo Street. It is in the passage note that they leave their gifts to the good little boys. In the trip they follow this order: they go first those people whom deaths were natural, then the executes, then the wretches, that is the corpses for their uncultivated misfortune, the corpses of immediately, that is suddenly, and street of this footstep. 
In Casteltermini the trip is every seven years, and the corpses do around the country, along the streets that have to cross the solemn processions. In Vicari the corpses bring in procession from the Cappuccinis but don't make any gift; the gifts it does them, as from now on I will say, the Old one of Christmas. Put again of this life way ephemeral the corpses, appear dressed to'em? This I would not know how to affirm being very vague in the tradition. That that it's known that in Acireale they dress of white, wound as those of the Friuli, in the funeral sheet, and they put on shoes of silk, perhaps to elude the vigilance of the sellers to which you/they will go to steal some things. In Borgetto, Partínico, etc. they must be wound in the only sheet naked afoot and with a grater of under, carrying every one press resinous turned on; they proceed to two to two reciting rosarii and litanies. In Milazzo, with the heavy skull and crossbones that they have on the weak neck, they crush the tender cervix of their children they hold all a crocetta with which they extract the eyes to the indiscreet and curious little boys.
In Catania they walk in procession for the roads reciting the rosary. In other communes of the Etnea they walk «
cu lu coddu di filu », that is with a neck of thread, as thin as a thread. Then turned for the most populated sestieris of the country, and comes where them they owe, they do ants to enter the houses of theirs joined, penetrate for the cracks and not visas make never their fact. How strainer the them gifts we don't know, but it is certain that they pass them. This way in the new popular king's children with the foot of an ant from them benefited they have the power to convert him in the same ant and to penetrate in the spellbound castles to find you the princess fatata, which they longly looked for.
In Salaparuta not the corpses always enter the houses, but they leave the gift to the doors and the windows for the more inside the shoes if the children belong to the lower part people, in canestrini if they are of the middle class. During the trip of the corpses the bells of the parish they play the whole night to funeral and mothers and the grandmothers, in the first hours of the evening, picked to desire their children and their nephews hold back them telling them the gestes of the corpses, and making them pray for'em while they are already being gone out of the burials. In the same Salaparuta the little boys that go to visit the corpses of the Cappuccinis come of picked little darlings to the cypresses of the convent, and with they play all day long. In this occasion they detach in copy berries of cypress and leafy branches of rosemary and, as things devoted to the corpses the, they bring in party inside their houses. 
In Monte Erice the corpses eat: done useful to the comparative history of the funeral uses. Departing themself from the church of the Cappuccinis, to a bystander of mile from the mountain, they bring with everything of them how much necessary is to do « good corpses » to their children their devotees. Reaches the Rocca Chiana stop to prend a  rest, sitting around themself all to refresh with what of can imagine better the little boys ericini, that is with well seasoned pasta. Taken back away for the more paths, they go to leave their gifts inside the houses of children. They don't ignore all of this the people and the morning pertempissimos go down to brigades to the Cappuccinis to see the corpses that have been so good for them; but in to go down saltelloni they go for a shortcut, so that to avoid Rocca Chiana, fearing that some corpse is not there still  to eat, the leftovers of the lavish libation.
It happened once in one of the nighttime trips of the corpses a fact that is everything pleasure to feel from the women etnee. Which tell that in the ancient times an orphan little boy, desirous to meet in the middle of that crowd of died the poor father, it went out only of house wandering full of anxiety and of fear. To every body that he/she met it was soon to ask: 
Veni mè patri? » and the other to immediately to answer him: « Apressu... ». The dead erans so many that the poor orphan was not able of it more, until already near to abandon him of the mind, among the weepings and the hiccups found it, and received kisses, caresses and sweets. Exactly from this tale it repeats its origin  proverbial sentence of Aci: « Veni mè patri? Appressu! », that him suol to almost say joking when it expects person that never comes. But we leave these particularities and we take back the thread of our uses.
It is already made day and children they jump from the bed impatient to look for everywhere. The things of the corpses, see astuteness of a mother! I am hidden where less you can suspect him, and therefore they grow in their children the anxieties, hot the hurries. To certain point they find anything, and they shout: «
Ccà su' » ! And that they find? a braid of garlics, a broken ladle, a pair of torn slippers, an object, in short, ridiculous. If if of it adontino is not to ask, failures of point in white the gilded dreams of tan maybe also of everything one year. The crafty mothers are sorry in appearance, but also « with tronche words and cut accent», with whom knows! with perhaps! they excite them to new searches: « They perhaps, tell to their children, the sarans made of conscience, perhaps him saran bewared of the disappointed lasciar a child that has them prayed with so much devotion... » And here restarts thoughtful the searches; and while new throb and new fears you to upset the kind spirit, mother with something kind a malicious surprise lifting some doubt on the sincerity of the prayer of the evening « Perhaps will not have been done as it owed... ; the corpses if of it brought saran... ; and that want more gifts and gifts! » Neither for this stopping from upside-down household implements and old men objects child also goes looking through secret angle of the house: until on the point to abandon disenchanted fruitful search, here it is trembling saltar out for a discovery: u guantiera of sweets, of fruit, of toys, of suits, prize to the possession ignored the Vucciria.
The sweets of the lower part common people they are for the Corpses the pupis of supper: warlike to soldiers, pedestrians, gentleman, trumpets, scarped of fused sugar commonly called supper; these pupis a few weeks before the party ríffandos are gone for the city, very ancient use, that, sometimes, because wide also to other giochi of fortune, was prohibited. Yield her they are pierced to form of wheel, apples, walnut-trees, chestnuts, mortella, filberts, filberts and in some places also fave. Among the suits there was room for a pair of boots or of shoes, rather in the Etna children the evening of November 1 they are accustomed to prepare in an angle of the house a pair of slippers «
'apparanu li scarpi », because the corpses in next night put back you anything. The slippers disappear, replaced from the new shoes or from little shoes of sugar; but there is also who finds her full of ash or of quiche non beautiful thing.
We have therefore the followings facts, the November 2 day of gifts for the little boys; the corpses beneficent geniuses for them. These facts common son to nine you decimate of the whole Sicily: to Palermo, Trapani, Messina, Catania * (Among the Sicilian Anecdotes of the LONGO, in the chapter xix, page 39, he speaks of this use to Catania), Girgenti; a tenth of the island preserves the ancient use of the gifts recognizing her, on the contrary from a toothless and monstrous old woman, that wants well also to the little boys; and while a paesello sees it in one day, a city seen into another: non capricious difference certainly neither casual, but been born by circumstances that the ethnic mythology would care it to know for preparing new light to the most intimate history of these uses. The sacred days to the gifts son two: the December 24 and the January 1. A popular song in Siracusa, that is a kind of calendar of the principal parties of the year, have these verses:

Jinnàru porta la festa lu primu
Comu si leggi ogn'annu a calennàriu,
Lu primu jornu chi agghiorna è la Strina,
E ddoppu d'idda veni San Macariu.
And it « Strina » or « jornu di la Strina » in many places it is postponed the 1° of the year. 
In Acireale once threw from the balconies «
lu scàcciu » (chestnuts, walnut-trees, dry fig trees); and there is the witticism:

E li vecchi stanu tisi,
E li giuvini agghimmati;
E la Strina mi la dati?
In Avola and other communes of the Siracusano, besides the usual gifts, they serve for this day as little boys to little boys friends among them: and from everybody it retains that who receives a gift from the other one is forced to reciprocate from a song the donor with other gift in the next one day of the Epiphany.
 In Ciminna (province of Palermo) among Termini Imerese and  Ventimiglia, where still rule the general custom of the corpses, the evening of December 24, day of gifts for the commune of Favara in the province of Girgenti, in which place the November 2 as to Mezzojuso (Albanian colony), the «
La Vecchia di Natali », a puppet of old wrinkled, torn, which do succession hundreds of rascals and young people, others playing corni of ox, blowpipes and buccini of sea, others beating cowbells, others beating frying pans, pots and casseroles, and others shouting to squarciagola: « La Vecchia di Natali » 
La Vecchia di Natali », I shout that between the noise and the cackles it makes to feel in the middle of the uproar; and with the cry you whistle from abyss infernal. That old so around behavior, represented so badly, it is colei that next night will have to enrich of playthings, of toys, of edible things, of suits the little boys. In Polizzi Generosa* (You party of the old is celebrated in Polizzi with so much solemnity that from nearer countries sellers hasten to plant you bazarri, where cloths especially abound, wools and thirst of every way, chè the gifts that do for that recurrence are of a lot of and, for some, of big expense). In Alimena this old comparisce the night of the last of the year; in Corleone however the night from 30 to December 31; in Cefalù proceeds above a horse conducted to hand by one of the party, and it is not itif not a young of it disguised. From the Ave tomidnight in Ragusa Inferior people are deafened from you howl him whistles and noises of a throng of boys that is intended to celebrate,  the sira of them bell viecci, In the neighboring population of Ragusa superior this noise is not had; this population, as it's known, it is colony in Catania
The «
La Vecchia di Natali » of Ciminna takes the simple name of « Vecchia Strina »; in Corleone, that of 
Carcaveccbía », elsewhere that of Epiphany. And notice him that in Vicari a said representation doesn't properly take place, because the old one doesn't do, neither him it conducts around; it isbelieved instead that the night of the birth of child, Jesus she goes out out of the ancient castle (also in Cefalù the Old one Singes it remains a whole year closed and hidden within the Castle), and descent in the city afoot him draughts behind a link of mules  load of fruits, sweets, dressed, and passing for the streets in ants is converted for leaving its gifts to the little boys.
* (These gifts of the old one it Singes they are very beautiful. Carmine Papa, rustic poet of Cefalù, in Sicilian Poetries (Cefalù 1880) to page 29 say that being him sick one friend of his him........

Purtava cosi di la vecchia Strina,
Lu ciàuru lu faceva arricriari.
In Corleone it goes down from the fortress in the middle of which the Town abandons and, where in the form of bird, where under another form, enters to fill shoes to other objects prepared from the little boys. And here as names and circumstances sometimes benefit to the illustration of the popular things, and, in our case, to approach a character, distant in appearance from anybody else, to that that big part of Italy, of France, of Germany etc. it recognizes for author of the gifts of New Year's eve. 
The «
Vecchia Strina » recalls at least with the name of the ancient Gift of Romans; while the Old Epiphany is the same thing with the Epiphany of the Italian people, that in Venice dicesi Marantega. Jump to foot you protect the matter, in truth of easy erudition, of the gifts, already essay up to the satisfaction from erudite ancient and from modern mitologist. On the contrary of an use, very important to my parer, that of eating broad beans the day of the corpses. Already a first sign of broad beans we saw than above by the way of the gifts received by the little boys. In Vicari the day of the Old one ago to the poor men alms especially of broad bean, as in Piemonte it makes of cooked vegetables. I'll say, because over of the broad beans it is also given some bread,  which is in form of small long pope up to half the trunk, hill hands in cross on the breast, representatives the souls of the purgatorial and therefore the souls. (The wealthy families do and they distribute these breads on first Mondays of every month, sacred to the Holy Souls). Those broad beans the poor men believing her blessed they sow her all up to one in that land that the owners to have them cultivated and manured they do for one year to favata to prepare them to the seeding of the wheat; and the is superfluous to say that, because blessed, they will give broad beans. In Girgenti, S. Caterina, Palazzo Adriano up to the past century (and perhaps up to the present) it was eaten and shared in place of broad bean hits the poor men. In Acireale the November 2 the lower part people eat at lunch them « li favi 'n quasuni », that son the broad breans without eye and boiled.This use was also in force to the century XVIII in Palermo (where today instead pizza breads and black mortella is eaten), and the Villabianca found you observations subject not so much series to owe him to put in light. If I was not proposed me not to enter long reasonings on the traditions and the uses that I come putting in evidence, could say that according to the ancient ones the faves contained the souls of theirs pierced: sacred to the corpses being the faves, and believing to see flowers of them certain black black characters (sign of mourning) that they were attributed to the gods infernal. I could say anchors that press the Romans the faves they had the first place in the funeral banquets, and continuation of such use to be that of Aci, what in the modifications of Vicari and other communes it represents the modifications that the use gentilesco came to suffer under another wait with the Christianity. the lunch or the supper dead  of Monte Erice recalls to the funeral banquet of the people Indo European, already existing in ancient times and that glue new religion not only passed unchanged, but it also grew to the point from to have to interest the Church. S. Ambrogío, in fact, had to prohibit banquets that the Christians went to do on the graves of the martyrs the November 2, that is the tomorrow in which the kind ones were used to celebrate all the gods of the Panteon. Then, the notices Gabriele Rosa, prevailed the use that in place to go provisions to the graves. these are distributed to the poor men to the houses rich. that's what it's explained because in the day of the corpses or, as in the Friuli, the day of Ognissanti, every family distributes to the people a quantity of bread or of soup of pasta and vegetables according to their own comfort, intending to bear the souls of the dead ones.

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M. Grifasi - 11/09/2000
Angelo Grifasi did the translation
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