In Italy and Sicily, nearly every small town has its own patron saint with their own celebratory feast day. The celebration known as La Festa Ognissante (All Saint’s Day), is a solemn holy day of the Catholic church to honor all the saints on the calendar and occurs on November 1. This is a national holiday that extends beyond Italy to many historically Catholic countries. Businesses shut down and schools are closed for this public holiday.
All Saint’s Day was formally started by Pope Boniface IV, who consecrated the Pantheon of Rome to the Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs on May 13, 609 AD. The Holy Day was eventually established on November 1 (replacing the May 13 celebration), by Pope Gregory III in the mid-eighth century, as a day dedicated to the saints.
Declared a holy day of obligation by Pope Gregory IV and King Louis the Pious, it is the Catholic practice to celebrate all those who have entered into heaven, including saints who have been recognized by the church and those who are not.
In the Roman Catholic Church, the next day is All Soul’s Day, which was also established by Pope Boniface IV. It specifically commemorates the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and have reached heaven. Catholics celebrate All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual connection between those in a state of grace who have died and either being purified or are in heaven. Across much of Europe, this Day of the Dead (Giordo dei Morti), is commemorated with flowers left on graves of the departed.
The Sicilian tradition, includes children remembering their relatives “that are no more” by eating the classic cookies of All Soul’s Day, known as ossi di morti (bones of the dead).