All Souls Day is also referred to as the Day of the Dead and it is held on the second day of November or the third day if second falls on Sunday. This is a Roman Catholic day to remember all the dead friends and relatives. All Souls Day was derived from the ancient Festival of the Dead celebrated by the Pagans. The Festival of the Dead was celebrated since the Pagans believed that the souls of the dead friends and loved ones would come back to have a meal on the table with the family. The souls were guided back home by the candles in the windows. The food was donated to feed those who lacked and also children from the village came asking for food which was offered as a symbol to please the dead.
The church has put All Souls Day purposely on a day that follows All Saint’s Day. This is with the intention of shifting attention from souls in heaven to those in purgatory. The All Saint’s Day is marked to remember the saints and glories associated with heaven while the All Souls Day reminds the living human beings of the need to lead holy lives and the belief that the souls of people destined to heaven will undergo purification even after death. This state of purification of the dead souls before going to heaven is referred to as purgatory.
The All Souls Day, therefore, is a Christian holiday where the living have the obligation to pray for dead Christians whose souls are in purgatory. Christians believe that the souls in purgatory, just like those who are alive, should undergo suffering so that their sins can be forgiven. In this regard, praying for their souls helps to reduce the suffering before they are received in heaven. In addition, Christians believe that prayers and good works of the living church members help the souls of the departed relatives and friends. The clergy, therefore, organizes about three Requiem Masses to assist dead Christians to proceed from purgatory to heaven.
There are varied customs and traditions of All Souls Day depending on the culture of people practicing. Most cultures believe that the dead join the living in spirit to partake the prepared food. Most homes, therefore, prepare an altar with an offering of food placed on it. It is arranged in a beautiful manner with the addition of flowers like the marigolds which are believed to be flowers for the dead. The flowers act as a reminder to the living people that the dead were once close and they were also pleased with the beautiful life. The living also light candles for all the departed souls to beautify the spirits.
Closely related is the custom of keeping burning candles whose number depend on the departed souls to be remembered. The burning candles symbolize the shared love, joy and hope with the people left behind and the belief that they will remain alive although they may have departed first and found rest in heaven. Some people believe that the dead leave their tombs at night and come back to visit their homes. Buckets of water are therefore left uncovered so that the spirits will come to quench their thirst.
Another popular tradition is the publishing of verses in local daily newspapers. The verses describe the character traits of the living or dead individual and also the services they offer or offered to the whole community. Such verses are mostly done in jovial moods on the All Souls Day. The Mexicans commemorate the day by visiting the graveyards of their friends and families. They make wreaths and crosses of flowers to put on the graves of the dead on the morning of the day of All Souls.
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