Days of the Dead: All Saints' and All Souls' Nov 1, 2019 6:51:48 GMT -5
Post by Graveyardbride on Nov 1, 2019 6:51:48 GMT -5
Days of the Dead: All Saints’ and All Souls’
While almost everyone is familiar with Halloween, or All Hallows’ Eve, there is some confusion about All Saints’ and All Souls’ Days. Basically, All Saints’ Day, November 1, was set aside by the Roman Catholic Church to honor those who confessed their sins and whose souls went directly to heaven. All Souls’ Day, November 2, was created to commemorate those who were baptized in the faith, but who had not confessed their sins and thus, ended up in purgatory. The latter, it was believed, were in need of prayers to cleanse their departed souls and prepare them for heaven. Many Anglican and Episcopal churches observe All Saints’ Day by reading the names of members who died during the preceding year.
“The Christian concept of the importance of the individual soul underlies All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, which are observed worldwide, primarily in the Catholic and Anglican traditions. The ‘Dia de los Muertos,’ or ‘Day of the Dead,’ in Latin countries keeps alive some of the tradition of honoring souls of the dead,” explained the Rev. Richard Donohoe. “All Hallows was considered a time when evil could manifest itself. We do believe in the visible and the invisible. There is good and there is evil. There is invisible evil and invisible good. It’s an acknowledgment of that existence.”
In Britain and Ireland more than a thousand years ago, Christians gathered on the eve of the feast of All Hallows’ Day to beg God’s blessing and protection from evil in the world. Often, they would dress in the costumes of saints or evil spirits and act out the battle between good and evil around bonfires. This was likely a hangover from the old Celtic celebration of Samhain, during which time it was believed the veil between the living and dead was at its thinnest and the spirits of the departed were able to cross over from the netherworld and walk the earth.
Robert Burns (1759-1796), Scotland’s greatest bard, wrote extensively about how ancient traditions and beliefs survived well into the Christian era. His 1785 poem “Hallowe’en” details many of the customs and legends surrounding the festival which persisted even after the introduction of Christianity. He was also fond of the supernatural, e.g., his famous poem “Tam O’Shanter,” wherein Tam encounters a number of witches, warlocks and a bagpipe-playing Devil.
On one memorable All Souls’ Day in 1961, as parishioners of St. Rita Catholic Church in Chicago prayed for the souls of the dead in purgatory, a seemingly miraculous, and as yet unexplained, incident occurred.
On November 2, Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), dating to the time of the Aztec Indians, is observed in Mexico and Latin America.
Sources: Norry Wilson, Scotland is Now, October 30, 2019; Heather Riggleman, Christianity.com, September 17, 2019; Greg Garrison, Alabama.com, November 1, 2013; and The Old Farmer's Almanac.