All Souls’ Day Celebrations Around The World

Celebrated all around the world on November 2, All Soul’s Day is the Roman Catholic day of remembrance for loved ones who are no longer with us. The annual celebration has ancient Pagan origins that are based on the belief that thesouls of the dead return to visit family and friends on this special day.

Aztec Origins

While All Saints’ Day (on 1 November) remembers all saints and martyrs, on All Souls’ Day candles are traditionally placed in the window, to guide the souls of the departed back home. The ancient Aztec people played a big part in the development of this tradition through their history. It is Aztec belief that the soul passes through nine phases before reaching the final resting place of the dead. It’s believed that during the night of All Souls’ Day, the soul of the deceased leaves its burial place to return home to family. After daybreak, the souls return to their coffins and tombs.

Common Customs

All Soul’s Day customs and traditions vary from culture to culture. One custom that is common is preparing and decorating an altar with offerings of food. Flowers, personal mementos and photographs are also arranged, to make the altar more beautiful. A candle is lit for each departed soul. Prayer is also an important part of the celebrations.

Celebrations Around The World

  • Mexico

When most people think about All Souls Day, the traditions of Mexico’s dia de los muertos (the day of the dead) usually springs to mind. Mexican people go to great lengths to celebrate this religious occasion in style. They visit graveyards and leave behind homemade wreaths and crosses made from fresh and paper flowers. Great care is taken when preparing the home with colourful displays of flowers, garlands and food. Eating skull-shaped candy is also associated with this Mexican tradition.

  • China

Chinese culture celebrates All Soul’s Day in a similar manner to the Roman Catholic faith. Offerings of food, fruit and flowers are given up to the souls of the deceased. Instead of lighting candles, Chinese people light sticks of incense in honour of loved ones, and of God. Homemade paper money is placed on the graves as a sign of prosperity for the departed souls.

  • Hungary

In Hungary, All Souls’ Day is commonly known as Halottak Napja, The day is a commemoration of the dead and involves prayers and the lighting of candles. Many communities extend the celebrations over three or four days. It’s also custom to distribute food, clothes and toys amongst orphans.

  • Poland

It’s the Polish custom to leave windows and doors ajar on the night of All Souls’ Day. The sign of welcome invites the souls of the departed to enter the home to reunite with loved ones.

  • The Philippines

In the Philippines it’s customary to celebrate Memorial Day, instead of All Souls’ Day. The celebration begins on the night of All Saints’ Day, when people go door-to-door requesting gifts in exchange for the singing of a traditional verse. Prayers, and decorating the graves of loved ones, are also common practice.

  • USA

In some parts of the USA, relatives of the deceased visit the graves of their loved ones and clean up, before decorating with floral garlands and wreaths. During the afternoon of All Saints’ Day, the local priest walks around the cemetery blessing each of the graves. Those celebrating All Souls’ Day attend Mass and light candles at dusk.

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