Cannistru dei morti: a tradition of Halloween in Sicily

Halloween in Sicily: cannistru dei morti

For many, Halloween is only the famous “trick or treat”. But not in Sicily. Where the feast of All Saints is, in some part of the island, is still celebrated as the tradition requires. And it is one of these traditions that we want to talk about: it’s the characteristic cannistru dei morti (literally, “the basket of the deceased”).

It is a basket full of sweets of all kind. Some of which are prepared solely on the occasion of the feast of All Saints. Like the biscotti dei morti siciliani (literally “Sicilian cookies of the deceased”), also known as ossa ri muortu (literally, “the bones of the dead”). Or as the very appreciated Frutta Martorana (marzipan sweets, in the form of fruits and vegetables), always present in every cannistru.

The cannistru was given to children and, in general, to a specific family. It was not only a symbol of good luck but also of opulence. Opulence directly proportional to the size of the basket. The cannistru was put on display at home and was opened only during the days preceding Christmas.

Today, you can still find the cannistru in the house of several Sicilian families. You can also find it in the Fiere dei morti (literally “fairs of the dead”): colorful stands where you can find everything, from toys to clothing; they usually last from October 28/29 until November 2.

The most important is the Fiera dei morti of Palermo, where you will find the cannistru that you like.


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