All Souls' Day
Also known as
Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed
Day of the Dead
annually on November 2nd
All Souls' Day commemorates the souls of deceased Christians. It developed out of All Saints' Day, and is associated with that holiday and Halloween. There are a variation of beliefs and practices observed among different churches on the day.
For Catholics, the day is for praying for the souls of those who are dead and in purgatory. In the late tenth or early eleventh century, Saint Odilo of Cluny decided that All Souls' Day would take place after All Saints' Day. All Catholic monasteries that were dependent on the Abbey of Cluny were to observe the day. Monks were to make prayers, alms, and sacrifices for those in purgatory. From here, All Souls' Day spread to other Western churches.
For Anglicans it is an optional holiday, an extension of All Saints' Day, used to remember those who have died in faith, especially relatives. It was not observed much by the Anglican Church during the Reformation, but began being celebrated again by some parishes in the nineteenth century, and was revived even more during World War I, when there was a need to mourn for those who had died in the war.
In Protestant denominations, similar practices have been adhered to as the Anglican church, and the day is not as practiced as much as it is in the Catholic Church. Eastern churches celebrate the day during a different time of the year altogether. In some countries, such as Mexico, it is known as the Day of the Dead. It is observed as such in parts of the United States with large Latin American communities as well.
How to Observe All Souls' Day
If you are of the Christian faith, you could observe the day according to the teachings of your denomination, whether it be Catholic, Anglican, or Protestant. If you are Catholic, the focus of the day will be for prayers for the dead in purgatory. Adherents of all denominations could spend the day attending a church service or visiting the graves of ancestors. If you are not religious, you could still visit graves, and could also look for Day of the Dead celebrations to attend.