It’s that spooky time of year again when kids and parents take their ghouls out of the basement and hang up extra spider webs around the house in anticipation of Halloween. There are parties to plan, treats to purchase, and of course costumes to prepare. Once again we’re faced with the all consuming question of “What am I going to dress as this year?”
Pinocchio’s Italian Eatery loves celebrating the holidays with families, and Halloween is no exception. If you are still trying to decide what kind of monster, witch, or zombie to dress as this year, we have a few suggestions from traditional Italian folklore that might inspire you:
Everyone has someone like this in family. The Badalisk (or Badalisc) is a goofy goat monster with an oversized mouth. He is characterized by his tiny horns, glowing red eyes, and propensity for gabbing. A big mouth in every sense of the word, the Badalisk is said to antagonize villages in Italy by roaming the countryside and spreading gossip wherever he goes.
There’s an annual tradition in some rural communities of sending out a “hunting” party, all dressed as iconic figures from Italian folklore, to capture the loquacious beast. The Badalisk is dragged to the town square where he delivers an irreverent speech (kind of a town roast) then everyone celebrates with a feast. Traditionally, kids are sent to go door-to-door to beg for cornmeal and the other ingredients to make Badalisk Polenta. After everyone is done eating and dancing, the Badalisk is marched back to the edge of town and released for another year.
It sounds pretty fun, and not too dissimilar to how we celebrate the Fall season today.
Befana is not your typical witch. In Italian folklore, she is essentially a female Santa Claus who delivers gifts to good children on the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany. Bad children may get a lump of coal or a dirty old stick in their stocking instead. She rides a broom instead of sleigh and wears a colorful patchwork robe instead of a black dress and pointy hat. It’s likely that Befana is the last remaining incarnation of the ancient Roman goddess named Strenua who presided over the New Year. Her story was derided for years as superstitious heresy, but Befana’s legend keeps on flying in Italy and Sicily.
Conveniently enough, Befana carries around a bag of treats on her back so if you decide to go dressed as this ancient witch you’ll be well equipped to tote your candy around during trick-or-treating. And, if someone forgets to buy candy, you can leave a dirty old stick on their porch as a reminder for next year.
The traditional Italian werewolf is a little different than the snarling beast you may be familiar with. Yes, he still occasionally turns into a giant beast and chomps people. Yes, Lupo Mannaro is hairy and dangerous and generally unpleasant, but the werewolves of Italian folklore are not completely unreasonable.
The Wolf of Gubbio, for example, was a far more reasonable character than one might expect. According to the story, a giant wolf used to stalk the fields and hamlets surrounding the agricultural town of Gubbio. He chased livestock around, ate people, and made a pain of himself whenever possible. When good Saint Francis dropped by Gubbio one day, the townspeople implored him to do something about the wolf. Rather than try to chase Lupo Mannaro away as they had tried so many times to do in the past, Saint Francis sat down with the beast and hammered out a deal. The wolf agreed to be a better citizen, so long as the townsfolk agreed to leave him tasty treats outside their doors.
A well behaved werewolf certainly beats the alternative. Once again you can see how some of our modern traditions like trick-or-treating may have their roots in old Italian folklore. Wherever your family comes from, we hope you’ll drop by Pinocchio’s Italian Eatery this Halloween season and share a few stories of your own. The food is great and we promise the bill at the end of your meal won’t be too scary.