How All Souls’ Day Is Celebrated Around the World
In these countries, honouring the dead is a sacred—and sometimes very lively—celebration.
Although they sound as if they’d be similar, All Souls’ Day is not the same as Halloween. In fact, they don’t even come from the same culture or religion. Halloween is thought to have come from the Celts, while All Souls’ Day (and its partner, All Saints’ Day on November 1) are products of Christianity. All Souls’ Day is a day of reverence for all those who have died—especially the ones Catholics believe are still stuck in Purgatory. On November 2 every year, many Spanish people celebrate All Souls’ Day not only by visiting graves, but also by bestowing them with special traditional pastries known as Huesos de Santo (Bones of the Holy).
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In contrast to the way other countries on this list celebrate All Souls’ Day, Poland makes it a very quiet, solemn affair. While other cultures hold parades in honour of the dead, the Polish people honour this day by lighting thousands of candles across cities and towns. The vision of innumerable flames in the dark creates quite a holy experience.
India is known for being largely Hindu, but there are Indian Catholics. On All Souls’ Day, they often visit the resting places of their deceased to adorn them with flower wreaths and bouquets, as well as offer prayer.
If there is one country known for El Dia de los Muertos, it’s Mexico. It’s part of the two-day celebration that starts with All Saints’ Day and continues through All Souls’ Day. One of the most anticipated days of the year, the Day of the Dead is when deceased family members are said to come visit with their family in the world of the living. That being the case, the Mexican people want to make sure they throw the most splendid party possible! The day is full of lavish costumes and parades, not to mention copious amounts of food and drink, especially the favourites of the dearly departed.
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Hungary has its own native lore when it comes to All Souls’ Day. People here will leave a light on their loved one’s grave so that they can find their resting place again, because it is believed that spirits use this day to walk the living realm. Similarly, they will leave lights on overnight in the house and put food out to accommodate the spirits.
Given that 50 per cent of Italians identify as Catholic, it follows that All Souls’ Day would also be celebrated here. On November 2, some Italians will have a meal side-by-side with their deceased ancestor in the cemetery. Others will hand out treats to children who have prayed for the dead all year long.
On this day, Peruvians will visit the graves of their loved ones en masse and offer them small gifts. Everything from food to flowers to dolls is bestowed upon the dead so that their souls know they are still loved.
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Haiti’s All Souls’ Day combines Catholic and Voodoo tradition to create the ultimate celebration of the dead. It is known as Fet Gede, and Haitians come from all over the country to meet at the capital’s primary cemetery. There, they encounter and pay respect to the spirit of the dead, known as Papa Gede. From that point onward, it is a massive celebration filled with rituals and dances.
El Salvador’s Day of the Dead is called La Calabiuza (meaning “skull”), and it is important to the country’s history and culture. This is less about religion and more about maintaining tradition, as it embraces Central American folklore rather than the lore of their Spanish conquerors. La Calabiuza involves dressing up as spooky characters, from the dead to the devil, but it is a sharp rejection of what we know as Halloween.
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There isn’t much pomp and circumstance when it comes to All Souls’ Day in the Czech Republic. Like the Polish people, Czechs honour this day by quietly visiting graves, lighting hundreds of candles, and sitting in thoughtful remembrance.
About 41 per cent of Angolans are Roman Catholic, which means that All Souls’ Day is a big deal in the country. The religious attend several masses on this day, and some services are even held at the cemetery. Angolans also visit cemeteries, and like Hungarians do, leave lights on in their homes in case the wandering dead want to make themselves comfortable.
The itinerary for the Pope on All Souls’ Day changes every year. In 2017, Pope Francis visited an Italian cemetery reserved for American troops who had been killed there during World War II. The central focus of his prayers that year was to honour the soldiers of the past and to hope for fewer dead soldiers in the future.
All Souls’ Day is not a big deal in France, so the French people make their trips to the cemetery on All Saints’ Day instead, when it is tradition for them to bring chrysanthemums to the dead.
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