It is a relatively new phenomenon here in Italy and people have not yet really quite worked out just what is supposed to happen.
They know that there is a good deal of dressing up to be done with masks and stuff and so what actually appears on the night is a slightly “horrored” up version of carnival but in October and not February.
The original Halloween was for adults and was a pretty scary event all things considered.
It was taken across the Atlantic to the the States by waves of immigrants where over the years it was transformed into a more commercially minded, child orientated kind of party and from there it was re-exported back to Europe in its mutated form.
The celebrations this evening took place in various places around the region.
Most of the images for this article were from the celebrations in Piazza Angelio in Barga Vecchia.
Historian Nicholas Rogers, exploring the origins of Halloween, notes that while “some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, it is more typically linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain, whose original spelling was Samuin (pronounced sow-an or sow-in)”. The name is derived from Old Irish and means roughly “summer’s end”.A similar festival was held by the ancient Britons and is known as Calan Gaeaf (pronounced Kálan Gái av).
The festival of Samhain celebrates the end of the “lighter half” of the year and beginning of the “darker half”, and is sometimes regarded as the “Celtic New Year”.
The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and the Otherworld became thin on Samhain, allowing spirits (both harmless and harmful) to pass through. The family’s ancestors were honoured and invited home while harmful spirits were warded off. It is believed that the need to ward off harmful spirits led to the wearing of costumes and masks. Their purpose was to disguise oneself as a harmful spirit and thus avoid harm. In Scotland the spirits were impersonated by young men dressed in white with masked, veiled or blackened faces. Samhain was also a time to take stock of food supplies and slaughter livestock for winter stores. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities. All other fires were doused and each home lit their hearth from the bonfire. The bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into its flames.Sometimes two bonfires would be built side-by-side, and people and their livestock would walk between them as a cleansing ritual. – source