Pupi di zucchero: Sicilian Treats for Festa dei Morti

November 2nd is the Day of the Dead, a remembrance day for deceased ancestors celebrated around the world. In Sicily, the day is called the “Festa Dei Morti,” and is celebrated with a number of unique, seasonal dishes. Far from being morbid or somber, some of the treats for Festa dei Morti are particularly colorful, including the realistic-looking marzipan fruits known as Frutta Martorana and the even more complex Pupi di Zucchero.

Pupi di zucchero means “sugar puppets” in Italian, and these edible, brightly-colored treats are formed in molds in the shapes of Italian folkloric characters, including knights and dancing girls. The tradition of actual pupi marionettes, particularly in Opera dei Pupi performances, is a major Sicilian art form dating from the 13th Century, and is still visible (in diminished form) throughout the island, particularly in Palermo. The origins of the sugar versions of pupi, and how they came to be associated with the Day of the Dead, are relatively obscure, and various historians place them as having French or Arabic origins. I haven’t ever seen these sugar treats outside of Sicily, so those of us outside of the island will just have to enjoy the visuals!

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