A special event often celebrated by the Catholic Church is here and souls across the land, and beyond, are ready to celebrate. Today is All Souls’ Day, a special day of prayer for departed loved ones and friends. Observed one day after All Saints’ Day, the annual event is held on Nov. 2, unless the day falls on a Sunday.
While All Saints’ Day is a Holy Day of Obligation that honors the faithful who are in Heaven, All Souls Day remembers the souls in purgatory who have not yet made it to Heaven and also serves as a reminder to live a holy life. Both All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day coincide with another popular holiday, the Day of the Dead, a two-day celebration observed on Nov. 1 and Nov. 2 each year
Various cultures celebrate the day in a variety of ways. Some Christians simply visit their friends and loved ones buried in cemeteries, while others place blessed candles with the deceased names at the gravesite. Some believe that the lost souls in purgatory are allowed to return to earth on this day. Some wander the Austrian forests, praying for release while those in Poland pay a visit to their church at midnight and visit their families through an open door or window. Because many believe the departed eat food that is left for them, some people have picnics near the graves of loved ones or leave a place setting at the dinner table - just in case. In some locations, mock funeral processions, parades and festivals are also part of the age-old tradition.