All Soul’s Day (sometimes called the “Day of the Dead”) is celebrated on November 2 (November 3rd if the 2nd falls on a Sunday). In Western Christianity, All Souls’ Day commemorates the faithful departed, i.e. those who die in God’s grace and friendship. This day is observed in the Roman Catholic Church, churches of the Anglican Communion, Old Catholic Churches, and to some extent among Protestants. The Eastern Orthodox Church observes several All Souls’ Days during the year.
My beloved grandmother Annie Casey Niland died on All Soul’s Day in 1981. Tradition has it, that if you die on this day, you go directly to heaven. I still miss her terribly.
All Soul’s Day History
All Soul’s Day, Catholic Dogma, Purgatory
Catholics believe that not everyone who dies in God’s grace is immediately ready for the direct experience of God and his perfect nature in heaven, so they must be purified of “lesser faults,” and the temporal effects of sin. The Catholic Church calls this purification “purgatory.” Purgatory is the final purification after death that makes us fit to be in the presence of God. The Catholic teaching on Purgatory essentially requires belief in two realities: 1. that there will be a purification of believers prior to entering heaven and 2. that the prayers and masses of the faithful in some way benefit those in the state of purification.
As to the duration, place, and exact nature of this purification, the Church has no official dogma, although Saint Augustine and others used fire as a way to explain the nature of the purification. Many faithful Catholics, including Pope Benedict XVI, understand that Purgatory may be best thought of as an “existential state” as opposed to a temporal place.
All Soul’s Day Traditions and Customs
- Visiting a Graveyard for a Picnic
- Decorating Relatives’ Graves with Flowers and Candles
- Remembering and Praying for Departed Souls
- Giving Orphans Food, Clothing, and Toys
- Leaving Doors & Windows Open on All Souls Night
All Soul’s Day Symbols
- Any Symbol of Death
- Any Symbol of Fire
- Old Testament Typology Foreshadowing All Souls Day
- All Old Testament Examples of Fire
- All Old Testament Examples of Purification