All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day

There appears to be some confusion with regards to the observance dates of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Aside from one coming after the other, the timing of the western Halloween  at the last day of October gave rise to the common presumption that what comes the day after is the feast for the remembrance of the dead. In Catholic countries, All Saints’ Day which is a day that commemorates saints or those who have attained the beatific vision in heaven is observed every Novembers 1st while All Souls’ Day which commemorates all the faithful departed whose souls need to be cleansed from sins is observed every November 2nd.

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All Saints’ Day

All Saints’ Day is also known as All Hallows or the Solemnity of All Saints. The saints said to have attained beatific vision in heaven refers to humans who were able to achieve perfect salvation and direct communication with God to their individual self. It is compared to the souls seeing God without any form of impediment.

The Catholic observance of this feast is traced back to the time Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all martyrs, sometime in May 13, 609. The observance of the feast as we know it today however is said to have started when Pope Gregory III founded the oratory in St. Peter’s Basilica which contains the relics of the holy apostles, saints, martyrs, and confessors. It was about this time that the observance was transferred from May 13 to November 1. This date which coincided with the Celtic holiday Samhain probably led to the confusion as it is a pagan event that is believed to have started the Halloween tradition.

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All Souls’ Day

The Catholic Church observes All Souls’ Day or The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed the day after All Saints’ Day. Also known as the Feast of all Souls or more simply the Day of the Dead, it is being observed based on the Roman Catholic doctrine that the souls of the dead who have not been cleansed of sin at the time of death have to be helped by prayers and the sacrifice of the Mass. People from places that observe this tradition would flock to cemeteries to bring candles and flowers to departed loved ones.

Souls who are believed to be in purgatory are the ones expected to benefit from this practice.

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