TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 2: Halloween may already be over, but that doesn’t mean that visions of cemeteries are finished quite yet: Today is All Souls’ Day in the Western Christian Church, and for centuries, devotees have been honoring the faithful departed with prayers and an elaborate festival. (The Huffington Post recently posted photos of Souls’ Day 2010 festivals around the world. View them here.) The Eastern Orthodox Church has long observed several “days of the dead” throughout the year, but Western Christians began setting aside a specific, official day in 998 CE. (Wikipedia has details.)
In Spanish-speaking countries, All Souls’ Day is better known as “Day of the Dead.” Many historically Catholic countries share a tradition of praying for souls in purgatory that have not yet attained the beatific vision in Heaven. To aid the departed in their journey, people often decorate loved ones’ graves and pray for the forgiveness of their sins. In some regions, devotees will even hold picnics near loved ones’ graves (the feast often includes lentils or peas. FishEaters.com, a Catholic site, has more).
If you’re looking for a family-friendly way to observe All Souls’ Day, consider these suggestions from Women For Faith & Family: Tell children or grandchildren stories of their departed relatives; look at old family albums with your children and tell them bedtime stories about the photos; or pray for departed relatives with your entire family.