The true story of the ‘‘Fair of the Dead’’ in Catania

Festa dei Morti Catania

Here in Catania the Fair of the Dead is among the most important and most awaited events of the year, after the feast of St. A mix of lights, colors and folklore that attracts thousands of people from all over Sicily each and every year.

“Until 1943, in the night between the 1st and the 2nd of November, every Sicilian house where there was a “picciriddu” was visited by some dead relatives. Not ghosts with white “linzòlo” and with the” scruscio” of chains, beware, not those who are frightening, but those who could be seen in the photographs displayed in the living room “(A. Camilleri).

This tradition has grown a lot over time and this year it will be at its 78th birthday. This year the stands will be 220 and the expected attendance in the large Fontanarossa parking ( the place where the fair will take place) is of about over 60 thousand people.

The idea of the fair is typical of the culture of Catania and comes out of the need for citizens to have a place where they can buy gifts for the feast of All Saints.

How did the “Fair of the Dead” begin?

According to the typical Sicilian tradition on the night between the 1st and the 2nd of November, the souls of the dead go visiting their loved ones bringing gifts and sweets to the children.

“Today’s 70yo people, (as told by the catanese Mimmo Rapisarda in his blog) will certainly remember the fair in Vittorio Emanuele square, known by all as “a chiazza de motti “because there you can buy presents for children at night.”

The “festa de motti” as they say in Catania, unlike Halloween (which comes from an Irish legend arrived in the United States and spread with globalization), has a very romantic and profound meaning.

Because of this, even if the popularity of the typical “trick or treat” joke has reached and partly conquered Sicily, the tradition of the “festa de motti” has been maintained by the Sicilians, who have maintained a varieties of initiatives to protect the tradition.

This year, for example, it will be held the first edition of “Sugar Night” designed by Giusy Cataldo, sponsored by the City of Catania together with the University of Catania and supported by the Machiavelli Theater, FilFest, Libò, Zammù TV and CityMap.

A project made up of workshops, readings, street artists exhibitions, video contributions and theatrical activities, which aim to spread and renew the spirit of the Sicilian tradition of the Day of the Dead.

What are the typical sweets of the Day of the Dead in Sicily?

Catania, as the whole Sicily, is the land of good food and the cult of eating well, for anyone who comes to visit us it is very difficult to be disappointed. Therefore, by definition we can not miss the opportunity to prepare typical sweets for the All Saints Day.

So treat yourself and enjoy all the delicious sweets of this feast:

  • The Bones of the Dead, a very hard biscuits to chew, made only with flour and sugar.
  • The Rame of Naples, a catanese mini cake with a soft heart covered with cocoa frosting, whose origins date back to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.
  • The ”nzuddi!” These sweets are typical of Catania too and they have been invented by the Vincentian Nuns of Catania. Made with almond, oranges and cinnamon, they are prepared every year just for this special occasion.

So if you are visiting Catania from October 27 to November 4 remember to pay a visit to the “Fair of the dead” to taste what remains of the magic of an inner Sicilian tradition!

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