THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 1 AND FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 2: Trick or Treating may be over, but most world cultures have only begun the grand celebrations that honor the dead: After all, yesterday was just All Hallows Eve, and the larger feast is All Hallows. In Mexico, the Day of the Dead—usually observed both days—involves home altars filled with photos of deceased loved ones and saints, a “bread of the dead,” picnicking near ancestors’ graves and even brightly-colored candies, known as “skull sugars.”
In traditionally Catholic countries, the festivities are distinctly different: All Saints’ Day, observed Nov. 1, commemorates those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven; on the following day, Nov. 2, Catholics and some other Western Christian denominations remember the Faithful Departed on All Souls Day. And, here’s an interesting link between world religions: In Buddhism, Ullambana is utilized to pray for the souls in the “Realm of Hungry Ghosts,” while in Western Catholic tradition, All Souls’ Day is a time to pray for the Faithful Departed in Purgatory. Christians around the world mark these two days in some manner, so light a candle for your deceased loved ones or teach children about their ancestral family trees.
The Irish Samhain paid tribute to the dead for centuries, and before that, the Roman Lemuria did the same. Today, according to Catholic site FishEaters, “it is practically universal folk belief that the souls of Purgatory are allowed to return to earth on All Souls Day.” Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs in 609 or 610 CE, and a feast for martyrs has played some part in Catholicism ever since (there is still, however, some debate of when the first “all martyrs” observance took place).
Eastern Christians mark several All Souls’ Days throughout the year, and Christian sects have varying takes on the holiday, too: Protestants regard all true Christian believers as saints and many Protestant congregations offer special tributes to members who have died in the past year in the early days of November.
For anyone picnicking at an ancestor’s gravesite or holding a feast for one of these days, try out a traditional food. Recipes like split pea soup, sugar skulls, Pan de Muerto (bread of the dead) and more are at FishEaters and AllRecipes.