The Origins and Contemporary Practices of All Souls’ Day All Souls’ Day is one of three holidays (Hallowmas) that serve as a reminder that the souls of deceased Christians are still a part of the Christian community. Celebrated on 2nd November, it is a holiday present in most, if not all Roman Catholic, Anglican Catholic and Orthodox churches, with minor variations considering dates and customs peculiar to different areas where the holiday is celebrated. Pope John Paul II probably best reflected the aim of the holiday in his words: ‘For the souls in purgatory, waiting for eternal happiness and for meeting the Beloved is a source of suffering, because of the punishment due to sin which separates them from God. But there is also the certitude that once the time of purification is over, the soul will go to meet the One it desires.’
Having emerged as a mixture of similar holidays from many different cultures, this complex, customladen holiday is somewhat difficult to trace back to its roots. Some Pagan holidays, such as the Festival of the Dead, undoubtedly served as the basis for this holiday, for these equipped people with the belief that souls of our ancestors come back to the ‘realm of the living’ on a particular day, to feast together with their descendants. The celebration of the holiday was reflected in placing one additional, empty chair at the table on which people dined, in front of which a plate with offerings, that came to be known as ofrendas was placed. Ofrendas consisted of many dishes, wine and soul cakes being the obligatory part of every ofrenda. Prior to the meal, which was usually a dinner (for souls could visit this world only during night hours), a lit candle would be placed in a window of the house, to guide the soul to its former home. The ...
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