This is a Christian holiday celebrated on the 2nd of November every year commemorating the ones who have departed or died specially ones relatives and loved ones.
Western churches generally celebrate it on the above mentioned date i.e. on the last day of Allhallowtide while the eastern churches celebrate it on the day after Pentecost and before Lent. The Eastern orthodox or catholic churches also celebrate it several times of a year.
This day is also known as the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed according to the liturgical books of the Western Catholic Church. On this day, the Catholics pray for the dead and it’s essentially an extension of All Saint’s Day. This is a day dedicated to giving alms to the souls of all the good people that have passed away and assisting their spirits.
The beliefs and traditions related to this day are different in the different churches of different denominations. Also known by the names “Day of Remembrance”, “Feast of All Souls”, this day is a public holiday in countries like Belgium, Brazil, Bolivia, Haiti, Mexico, Ecuador and a lot more. In case the 2nd of November falls on a Sunday, then the holiday gets extended to the next day i.e. the 3rd of November. It’s also observed in some Christian churches in countries such as United States, Canada, UK and Australia.
Origin And Background
All Soul’s day was first celebrated in the monastery in Cluny in 993 CE and then got widespread recognition all over the rest of the Christian communities. It was in the early eleventh century that Saint Odilo, the Abbot of Cluny in France suggested that the day right after All Saint’s Day be devoted to pay homage to the deceased souls, especially the ones who are still in purgatory. All Soul’s Day is majorly a Roman, Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox holy day. It’s believed that the customs of this day are associated to the customs of ancient veneration practiced in other parts of the world like the Pitru Paksha (India), Ghost Festival (China), Bon Festival (Japan) and Lemuria (Rome).
The main symbol of death – the skull is the most common symbol related to All Soul’s Day. It can be seen in decorative items as well as on treats and tidbits eaten particularly on this day. These include chocolate made sugar skulls as well as crunchy, clove-flavored cookies that are known popularly as “bones of the dead”. Children love eating treats like chocolate hearse, candy coffins and sugar funeral wreaths.
Celebrations And Traditions
On this day, most people make it a mandatory point to visit the churches which are decorated in liturgical colors of violet and customary black. Family graves are visited and candles are lighted in order to honor the spirits of the ancestors while the previous day i.e.
“All Saint’s Day” had been spent in cleaning and decorating the graves. There are certain customs that reflect the dogma of purgatory such as bells are rung to wake up and comfort the dead. There are certain types of cakes known as ‘soul cakes’ that are given to the poor as doing this is believed to relieve the souls from the sufferings in purgatory. All Soul’s Day is known as “Dia de los Muertos” in Mexico when the dead are honored.
In Sicily, on this day, children pray for the souls of the deceased and they open their shoes and leave them outside the doors which are then filled with gifts for them. In Rome, some young couples may break the news of their engagement on this day. In Tirol, the rooms are kept warm and cakes are left on the table to make the spirits comfortable as well as supper is left for them at bedtime.
In Brittany, the ritual is to visit the cemeteries at night, kneel down bareheaded in front of the graves and to pour holy water or milk over the tombstones. In Malta, trips are organized to the cemeteries and people take part in pilgrimages to the graveyards not only to visit the burial sites of their relatives but to also experience the feel of the auspicious day.