All Souls Day: What It Means And Why It Matters

Flowers and Candles at the tombs All Souls Day Philippines

Every year in the month of November, Christians would take a day or two to clean the graves of their dearly departed. Come the second day of the month, thousands of people flock to cemeteries to visit, offer flowers, and pray for their departed loved ones. This holiday is called All Souls Day. 

Would you believe that in 2019, over 340,000 people visited one cemetery in Manila? Yes, that’s for one cemetery alone. Imagine the road closures and terrible traffic it brought. The question is, why do people go through all that for the All Souls Day celebration? 

As we talk about All Souls Day celebration, we will discuss everything you need to know from its origin to All Souls Day traditions so make sure to read the full blog.

*Blog cover photo credits to Catholic Digest

About All Souls Day

In Roman Catholicism, All Souls’ Day is observed on November 2 to remember all the faithful departed who are believed to be in purgatory because they died with the guilt of lesser sins on their souls. The Roman Catholic doctrine says that the prayers of the faithful on earth will help cleanse these souls in order to be pure and fit the Beatific vision, a requirement for entrance into Heaven.

What’s inside this blog?

Origin of All Souls Day

flowers at the tombs all souls day

Image by Eveline de Bruin from Pixabay

On the first two days of November, Christians, especially Catholics, are remembering their departed loved ones by going to cemeteries and offering prayers, flowers, and candles. These are called All Saints Day and All Souls Day, but some are not clear about its difference.

All Saints’ Day is meant to honor the saints, while All Souls Day meaning is a commemoration to pray for the dead and for the repose of the souls in purgatory.

The exact origin of the All Souls Day celebration is unknown, but it isn’t more than about 1200 years old. In 1048 AD, St. Odilo, the Abbot of Cluny, pronounced that all monasteries of the congregation of Cluny were to annually keep November 2 as All Souls Day also called Day of All Departed Ones, and was soon adopted by other Benedictines. On November 1, the tradition began with the tolling of the bell right after Vespers and the Office of the Dead recited, and on November 2, priests had to say mass for the repose of the souls in purgatory. Therefore, November 2 All Souls Day became the official day for the commemoration of all the faithful departed in the 14th century.

The Church acknowledges the need and duty of praying for the dead but any offering for the repose of the souls was left to the discretion of the people. 


All Souls Day Tradition

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People at the cemetery for All Souls Day

Photo credits to Jun Acullador via Flickr

All Souls Day celebration may be about commemorating the departed loved ones but for many, it’s also a day where the family becomes complete again and shares meals together. Whether you are celebrating All Souls Day 2021 at the cemetery or not, the most important thing is to pray for the souls. Here are some of the Nov 2 All Souls Day traditions that people across the world do.

1. Visiting the departed loved ones

For many people, especially Filipinos, it is already a tradition to visit cemeteries to remember their departed loved ones every All Saints and All Souls Day. But because thousands of people are expected to go to cemeteries on the actual All Souls Day date, some opt to visit before or after Nov 2.

2. Offering food and flowers for the departed

Another tradition every All Saints and All Souls Day is offering food and flowers for the dearly departed. This is said to be done in the Feast of All Souls to delight the deceased. Offering food is not that usual as to offering flowers in the Philippines. When it comes to flowers, people buy a bouquet or arrange it themselves with the favorite flowers of the departed.

3. Having a mini feast

All Saints and All Souls Day is also the time when families have their “mini-reunion” because some are returning to their provinces to visit the graves of their loved ones. With this, people prepare foods that they can all share together. However, it’s still uncertain if this is possible this All Souls Day 2021 due to the pandemic.

4. Praying for the souls

Of course, the true All Souls Day meaning is really about praying for the deceased. People who visit the graves of their loved ones light candles and offer a prayer. But for those who can’t go to the cemetery, they just offer All Souls Day mass which can also be done this All Souls Day 2021 if the pandemic still restricts people.


Frequently Asked Questions About About All Souls Day

Q: What do you do on the All Souls’ Day date?
A: While the true essence and All Souls Day meaning is praying for the souls, there are lots of things that people do on All Saints and All Souls Day that became the tradition. Here are some of the things you can do this All Souls day 2021:

  1. Visiting the departed loved ones
  2. Offering food and flowers for the departed
  3. Having a mini feast
  4. Praying for the souls

Q: Who celebrates All Souls Day?
A: Roman Catholics and Anglo-Catholic churches commemorate the “faithful departed” through the Feast of All Souls every November 2. This holiday commemorates and prays for the souls of those who are in Purgatory.

Q: Is November 1st All Saints or All Souls Day Catholic?
A: All Saints and All Souls Day are two different holidays. All Saints’ Day is celebrated on November 1 to commemorate the saints while All Souls’ Day is celebrated on November 2 to pray for departed souls.

Q: When is All Souls Day 2021?
A: All Souls Day 2021 is on November 2, Tuesday.

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