In Catholicism, All Saints Day is celebrated to commemorate the church’s triumphant of saints in heaven and All Souls’ Day commemorates the church penitent of souls in purgatory. According to Catholic teachings, the purification of souls stuck in purgatory can be assisted by the actions of the faithful on earth.
What is All Souls’ Day?
All Souls’ Day or the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed and the Day of the Dead is a day on which Christians pray and remember their dearly departed relatives. It is celebrated annually by the Catholic Church and other Christian Churches on the 2nd of November.
While All Souls’ Day is often celebrated in Western Christianity, however, in Eastern Christianity Saturday of Souls is a related tradition that is observed in remembrance of deceased friends and relatives. The souls of the departed are commemorated through prayers for departed souls.
Although beliefs and practices associated with All Souls’ Day vary amongst different Christian denominations, the celebrations usually include prayers, intercessions, almsgiving, and visits to cemeteries. Relatives commemorate the souls of relatives stuck in purgatory and gain their indulgences.
History of All Souls’ Day
In 993 C.E., All Souls’ Day was first instituted as a feast at a monastery in Cluny. This observance to commemorate the souls of our dearly departed soon spread throughout the Christian world. In the 10th century, at the Abbot of Cluny in France, Saint Odilo proposed that the day after All Saints’ Day should be set aside to honor the souls of the dead, particularly the souls that were stuck in purgatory.
Significance of All Souls’ Day
In Catholicism, the theological basis for commemorating the feast of All Souls’ Day is set in the doctrine that states that the souls that are departing from the body have either not been perfectly cleansed from venial sins or have not fully atoned for past transgressions are debarred from the Beatific Vision, and it is up to their faithful on earth to help them by prayers, almsgiving, and through the sacrifice of the Mass.
Symbols of All Souls’ Day
In many cultures, skulls and skeletons are considered the symbols of All Souls’ Day. This is because skulls are the symbol of death. In Sicily, cookies known as “bones of the dead” are made to celebrate All Souls’ Day. In several catholic countries, you can also find candy and chocolates in the form of a skull around Halloween, All Saints Day, and All Souls’ Day.
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All Souls’ Day and Halloween
In Western Christianity, All Souls’ Day is celebrated on the 2nd of November. Two days prior to All Souls’ Day, on 31st October, millions of children across the world celebrate Halloween. On Halloween, children dress up in costumes and go door-to-door, receiving candies and chocolates.
While some believe that the tradition of Halloween originates from Pagan and Celtic customs, others believe that it is associated with ancient All Souls’ Day traditions. Centuries ago, on All Souls’ Day, poor people would go door-to-door and wealthy families would give out soul cakes (small cinnamon-flavored sweet cakes) in return for prayers for the souls of their dearly departed relatives. This tradition would later evolve into young children going door-to-door and asking adults for treats.
All Souls’ Day Traditions
France: In Brittany, France, people flock to cemeteries at nightfall to kneel at the graves of their loved ones and to anoint their tombstones with holy water or pour libations of mild on them. Before bedtime, they also leave supper on the table for the souls.
Austria: In accordance with local customs, people leave cakes for their dearly departed loved ones on the table and keep the room warm for their comfort.
Italy: In Italy, All Souls’ Day or Commemoration of the dead or the Day of the dead is commemorated by families visiting and cleaning the grave sites of their loved ones. At home, altars are decorated with family photos and votive candles. Children are gifted a special basket which sometimes contains chocolates, pomegranates, and other special gifts from their ancestors.
When is All Souls’ Day in 2022
The date of All Souls’ Day is 2nd November, 2022
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