Taking place the day after All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day is a time for Christians to remember and pray for the souls of departed friends and family. Many Christians attend church services and pay their respects at the graves of family and friends. All Souls’ Day is closely associated with All Saints’ Day; the two days are collectively known as Hallowtide.
All Souls’ Day was initiated in the late 10th century by (Saint) Odilo, Abbot of Cluny in France. Saint Odilo proposed that the day following All Saints’ Day be dedicated to the remembrance of the deceased, particularly those whose souls were still in purgatory. The tradition soon spread throughout the Christian World, where it became custom for poor Christians to offer prayers for the souls of the dead in exchange for charity, in the form of money or food, from the wealthy. In 19th and 20th century Britain, children would go ‘souling’ – singing from door to door in return for alms or soul cakes. As many people held the belief that the dead would revisit their homes on All Souls’ night, they would light candles outside their homes to help guide the deceased souls.
Today, one of the most famous observances of All Souls’ Day takes places in Mexico where Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a national holiday. As many Mexicans believe that the souls of the dead visit friends and family on this day, people visit cemeteries with gifts of candles, flowers and food. Mexican children eat tiny chocolate hearse, sugar funeral wreaths, and candy skulls and coffins. There are often festive parades in the streets and it is traditional for performances of José Zorrilla’s 1844 Spanish drama, Don Juan Tenorio, to be staged.
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