Ossa dei Morti
By: Desiree Davis & Natalie Pendell
The Feralia was the last day of a week-long Ancient Roman holiday which honored the dead, and was a religious holiday sacred to Jupiter. This holiday was meant to honor the dead and give peace to the departed. It was a family festival that took place originally on February 21st, filled with festivities, and many superstitions. To ward off Lemuri and Larvi (malicious ghosts,) you would walk around the house barefoot in the middle of the night with a mouth full of black fava beans that you would toss one by one over our shoulder on to the floor. This warded off the malicious ghosts, and brought peace to your family.
This holiday did not bode well with the strict early Roman Christians who had already begun to observe the Antiochean custom of worshipping the Martyrs on the first Sunday after Pentacoast, but was recognized by Pope Boniface III, who then established All Saints Day, which he decided would take place on May 13, the day the pagan Romans had worshipped their Pantheon. However, this day did nothing about the celebration of Samain in the more northern sections of Europe, so it was finally moved to November 1st. In the fifth century, November 2nd became known as Remembrance Day, and Italians still celebrate that day.
Even though Pope Boniface traded a pagan holiday for a Christian holiday, one tradition from the pagans did survive, and that was ossa dei morti, or bones of the dead. While these don’t sound like a treat you’d find at a celebration, they’re actually cookies made with almonds and cinnamon. These were made for the festival, and many families took them on their picnics that they would have near their loved one’s grave.
Ossa dei Morti
Bones of the Dead Men
• 1/2 pound slivered almonds
• 2 cups sugar
• 2 Tbs butter, room temperature
• 2 cups flour
• 1/8 tsp ground cloves
• 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
• 1 egg white