Sunday was All Soul’s Day which is celebrated on 2 November and follows All Saints Day (1 November). During my 5th grade religious education class, my co-teacher and I attempted to explain the importance of All Soul’s Day. 10 year olds have such a different perspective and our American culture deals so differently with death than other countries. A few of the children were shocked that in most other cultures, it is customary to go to the cemetary on All Soul’s Day in order to honor those who have died.
All Soul’s Day is a Roman Catholic day of remembrance for friends and loved ones who have passed away. The day follows All Saint’s Day in order to shift the focus from those in heaven to those in purgatory. It is celebrated with masses and festivities in honor of the dead. The Feast of All Saints remembers those Saints who are in the glories of Heaven while the Feast of All Souls reminds us of our obligations: to live holy lives and to pray for those souls of those destined for Heaven. Our project in class was a paper tent which can stand up with a prayer on one side and the other side had: Departed Family, Departed Friends and Forgotten Dead. The children could write in the names of those they would pray for during the month of November.
In Mexico, the Day of the Dead, is a three day feast. There are a lot of customs associated withThe Day of the Dead celebration. In the home, an altar is made with an offering of food upon it. It’s believed that the dead partake of the food in spirit and those still living eat it later. The offerings include flowers such as marigolds, which are the traditional flower of the dead and an adorned candle is placed for each dead soul. The offering also includes incense, mementos, photos, and other remembrances of the dead. Being a three day feast, it’s quite elaborate.
I remember when we lived in Germany, All Soul’s Day was a day where the Germans would dress in their finest clothes, visit the graves of those who died and spend the day together with family. The cemeteries in Germany are so beautiful and meticulously maintained.
Here at our church, it’s a lot more subdued. We wrote the names of family and friends for the priest to read during the Mass. Because there were so many names he read the first name and then said “and others.” So, when he said “Bill and others” I knew he read my list which started with my Dad.