Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Recently I came across a very irreverent but humourous article which speaks about Sicilians relationship towards death and funerals.   Written by a Sicilian and roughly translated by me, I’m sure that it will bring a few smiles, especially if you can imagine and appreciate the pieces of dialogue in Sicilian dialect:





“There is always a marriage where you cry and a funeral where you laugh” says an old Sicilian proverb.   Nothing could be more true.   Weddings and funerals in Sicily are wonderful occasions for those who love tearjerkers.   At weddings they cry with joy and at funerals they cry with grief but sometimes it can be the other way round.   Both occasions are definitely an excuse to shed a few tears when you meet up with long lost relatives not seen since the last family wedding or funeral.


Old style Sicilian funerals are some of the few remaining traditions that still hold up in our society.    Certainly, they are not like the way they were described in the film “Coppola & Lupara”…………. they are a whole lot worse!!   Everyone hopes that the “buonanima” (the good soul) won’t decide to kick the bucket on a Friday as otherwise it means the whole carousel will last right through the weekend until Monday.




“Uncle Pino died”        Which Uncle Pino?”


In every family ‘made in Sicily’ there are at least two uncle Pinos, if not more, so it is to be forgiven if you hesitate a moment to try and think which Uncle Pino they are talking about and then make up your mind whether you feel bad about the news or not.    “Ah yes!………Uncle Pino.      “But how old was he?        Quite a spring chicken really.   Only 96″




If the coffin stays in the house, then usually you will find the deceased lying in state in the middle of the sitting room while the rest of the family is in the kitchen arguing about the inheritance.   If, instead it’s in the mortuary, don’t do as I did.   Find out first who you are paying your respects to.


Poor Uncle.    Hasn’t he changed?“, I said to the blonde lady sobbing at my side.    Thinking that maybe she was the daughter I couldn’t really say that I hadn’t a clue who the guy in the coffin was.    “It was a real shock for the whole family“, I tell her.   The blonde gives me a funny look.    I’m still gazing at the guy in the box with my appropriate woeful funeral expression when my mother, stifling her giggles, taps me on the shoulder and whispers  “You’ve got the wrong corpse!    Your uncle is next door


For goodness sake!   Why don’t they put a plastic name bracelet on his wrist like they do for new born babies




The priest who generally looks like a cross between Mr. Bean and Bruno Vespa (Porta a Porta RAI 1) gleefully rubs his hands.   The sermon always seems to be an excerpt from a Coelho book:   “Because death is the best thing that can happen to you in life“     S..t!!  I’m thinking.   “You must find yourselves ready and willing for when the Lord decides to take you on your last journey”.     So what, I dress up for Carnival and erect a bier at the end of my bed, just in case?


After 45 minutes of being jinxed by Mr. Bean, the mass is coming to an end but not before we have the ‘shaking of hands as a sign of peace’ and the communion.    During the shaking of hands which involves clasping a variety of sweaty hands within a 2 yards radius, switching and turning and straddling pews to reach all the extended arms, they were all giving me that embarrassed first day at school smile.   What are they all smiling about, I think?   The next time I’ll plaster glue all over my hand and then we’ll see if they still smile!


Communion, instead, is when you all queue up to receive the Body of Christ.   The Body of Christ in a tin bowl?    Thoughts go through my mind that this could be the perfect moment to trip the guy up behind me and watch the domino effect all the way down the queue to see what happens next.   Naturally, I desist.   Pious people who beat their chests, go home and then don’t even speak to their brother for some futile reason.




In the smaller towns and villages of Sicily, the funeral procession is usually done on foot from the church to the cemetery.   A river of people follow the coffin chatting religiously and walking at the pace set by the funeral car.   Funerals, like all processions, are a not to be missed event in Sicilian villages.   While you are following on behind you will soon become aware that, apart from the close family in pole position, the other people walking with you are chatting about absolutely everything except the moment in question.


“So do you put a boiled egg in your pasta al forno?”  I can hear behind me.   Or referring to the deceased up front “……… did you know that he was having it off with the daughter of the brother of Uncle Corrado’s acquired cousin, crazy Agata’s niece?“   Better than any gossip magazine!


At the end of the carousel there is the interment.  Then, like lots of cockroaches scuttling for safety after the light has been turned on,  the mourners return home, worn out, to wait for the next ‘announcement’.


OK, so now we can all touch wood.    Until the next one…….Amen


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