When is All Souls’ Day and Why Do Christians Observe It?

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REUTERS/Jayanta Dey

People light candles on the grave of their relatives before praying at a cemetery during the observance of All Souls Day in Agartala, India November 2, 2016.

All Souls Day is always observed on Nov. 2, and it falls on a Thursday this year.

Halloween, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day are all part of Allhallowtide, the three-day period that is meant to honor the dead, including martyrs, saints, and regular Christians. What sets All Souls Day apart from Halloween (otherwise known as All Hallows Eve) and All Saints Day is that the day is primarily meant to pray for the dead Christians who may still be in purgatory.

Christians, especially the Roman Catholic church, believes that a person who dies does not immediately go to heaven despite not having committed the so-called mortal sin. Instead, his soul will stay in purgatory, a place for purification, so that the soul can become holy before entering heaven.

Roman Catholic faithfuls believe that, for a soul in purgatory to be purified from his minor sins and eventually become holy, prayers from the living are needed. Hence, family and friends pray for the souls of their departed loved ones on November 2, with many sponsoring a mass in honor of the souls.

It is believed that All Souls’ Day dates back to the 9th century as it was a practice for monasteries to set a day to pray for their dead. While it was in the 11th century when a Benedictine abbot established November 2 as the day to honor the dead, it was only in 1915 when it became an official Roman Catholic tradition, thanks to Pope Benedict XV.

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