The vampire, a creature that drains life from the living, is one of the oldest mythological figures. Every culture has its own interpretation and version of these demonic ghouls. Italy, with its rich history, is no exception. Even the early Etruscans and Romans had vampire myths and related festivals. To this day, the traditions continue. From Italian Halloween to horror film festivals, it is not a challenge to find the vampire celebrated in Italy.
Halloween in Italy
Halloween had its origins in pagan Europe, but the holiday took much of its modern form from American celebrations, being imported back across the pond and commingling with other European festivals honoring the dead. This cross-pollinated holiday is starting to catch on in Italy. Within this milieu, vampires have become a part of the holiday, though they are more derived from the American traditions than native Celtic or Roman versions of the creatures.
Italian Horror Film Festivals
Italy hosts several horror film festivals that embrace the horrific and frequently feature the vampire. These include the Saleteno Fear Film Fest every June in Lecce and the Kimera Film Festival (formerly the Return of the Living Shorts) every May in Campobasso. With Italy's rich cinematic history, film festivals of all genres are not hard to find, especially those devoted to horror -- and where there's horror, there are vampires.
The Ancient Festival of Lemuralia
An ancient Roman festival, Lemuralia was celebrated every May until it was suppressed by the Roman Catholic Church. In this festival, Romans would exorcise vampiric ghosts called Lemures. The Romans believed that these ghosts had to be exorcised every year, and held that May was an unlucky month for marriage as a result of these specters' vampiric properties.
St. Marcus Day
The "Twilight" novels have perked up interest in St. Marcus Day in Volterra, Italy. The author, Stephenie Meyer, picked the real town mostly for its name, coincidentally similar to a clan of vampires she had already named in her novels. However, St. Mark's Day (whose name can be written as Marcus) was really celebrated in death-centered traditions and processions throughout Italy, though the red robes and the connection to vampires was mostly Meyer's creation.
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