AN ANCIENT FUNERAL CEREMONY IN SICILY

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The coffin was carried by my grandfather’s friends on their shoulders to the Church of San Cataldo nearby, and after Mass it was set on a hearse dragged by two black horses.
There were thousands of people at the funeral, and all of them followed the hearse to the cemetery. At that time there were not many cars in the streets, so whenever there was a funeral the streets were closed to traffic. Sometimes the municipal band played a funeral march for very rich or special people.

After the funeral we had a tasty dinner. For eight days we were served breakfast, lunch, and dinner by our close friends. All the families gathered around the table. In Enna, you could not make the time of mourning at your will. It had to last eight days. During this time, besides being served delicious food by our relatives and close friends, we received visits from our neighbors and acquaintances. The food we received was more delicious than anything I had ever eaten before—so much so that a doubt arose in my mind: “Is this a time for mourning or a party?”
After eating, we returned to the double bedroom to show our grief as the visitors came in little by little. I sat close to my mother and observed the scene. The visitors entered the room and gave condolences to the family members, starting with my grandmother, and then they sat on the chairs scattered across the room and remained silent or talked with some of the family members.
Every family member was dressed in black. As soon as a new visitor came in, my mother and Aunt Carolina put a sad expression on their faces. Then they started chatting with the newcomers. While they chatted their faces were quite relaxed, but whenever a new visitor came in, they stopped chatting right away and reassumed a sorrowful look. In fact, it was mandatory to show a contrite face; otherwise folks might think that they didn’t mourn the loss of their father.
Since then I understood the difference between “to be” and “to look like.” The change in my relatives’ faces in showing grief meant that appearances had great importance in people’s eyes.
The custom of judging by appearances was widespread in Enna. Even today we tend to judge by appearances and fail to see what is really hidden inside every human being.

This is an excerpt from A Hidden Sicilian History by Ettore Grillo
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
-Travels of the Mind
http://www.amazon.com/author/ettoregrillo

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