All Saints Day? All Souls Day? Day of the Dead? What’s the difference?

Many do not realize that of All Saints Day and All Souls Day are two different types of celebrations, but do have a common thread, they all are about “Those Who Have Died Before Us.”  Yes, these do have a Christian background to their history.

Catholics all around the world mark November 2 as All Souls’ Day. The day is celebrated annually and commemorates all baptized Christians who are thought to be stuck in the intermediate state of purgatory. While people who have committed mortal sin are believed to go to hell, those who have died with the guilt of lesser sins stay in purgatory to cleanse their souls.  All Saints Day is November 1st when the Catholic Church honors its saints and martyrs.

All Souls’ Day is a part of the “Allhallowtide” season. Allhallowtide begins on Halloween, on October 31st and continues with All Saints’ Day on November 1, and then All Souls’ Day on November 2. The date of All Souls’ Day was made universal back in the end of the 1200s.

This day was chosen to succeed All Saints’ Day, which is when a feast is held to commemorate those members of the church who have found a spot in heaven. Following this celebration, the church then prays for those souls who are believed to be suffering in purgatory.

It is believed that the prayers of the faithful on earth can help in the cleansing of the souls in purgatory, thus helping them to be able to ascend to heaven. All Souls’ Day is considered to be a day of prayer and remembrance. Churches hold masses for the repose of the souls of the dead on this day.

Different cultures mark the day differently. While North Americans usually perform extra prayers and light candles for the departed, those living in parts of Latin America visit the graves of their ancestors. They sometimes also leave food offerings for the departed souls.

All Soul’s Day is known by many different names around the world. It is called the ‘Feast of All Souls’ and ‘Defuncts’ Day’ in countries like Hungary, France, Italy, and Ecuador, and in the Mexican culture, All Soul’s Day is known as Dia de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead.

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