These culture-rich celebrations are as unique as they are beautiful.
Halloween is the beginning of the three days of Allhallowstide, which also includes All Saints Day, and the lesser known (in the US) All Souls Day. On All Saints Day, November 1, Catholics celebrate the lives and works of saints already in heaven, including those without a feast day of their own. In many countries, All Saints Day is recognized as a national holiday.
All Souls Day on the other hand, is a day to remember and pray for all those who have died, in particular, the souls in purgatory. Unlike All Saints Day, November 2 is not a holy day of obligation, but priests are able to celebrate extra Masses that day for the dead. As well, people in countries around the world have adopted their own traditions to honor the deceased. Festivities typically begin on All Saints Day and continue through the end of All Souls Day. From lighting up cemeteries with thousands of candles in Poland to sharing a meal at a gravesite in Peru, these culture-rich celebrations are as unique as they are beautiful.
MEXICO—Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) is a lively Mexican holiday that begins on All Saints Day (although some activities start even earlier). Geared towards bringing together family and friends to honor the dead, the festivities include plenty of food and drink, costume parades, parties, and other activities the dead would have enjoyed in life. Skeletons and skulls (calacas and calaveras), figurines, and ofrendas (personal altars commemorating the dead) decorated with colorful flowers line the streets and cemeteries during the multi-day event.
POLAND—All Souls Day (Zaduszki) is celebrated by Slavic Catholics beginning on All Saints Day. The annual holiday is recognized by millions throughout the country. Many city streets shut down and extra buses are added to shuttle the mostly silent, solemn crowds between city hubs and cemeteries as they remember and honor the dead. The cemeteries glow with the light of thousands of candles, creating a breathtaking atmosphere.
GUATEMALA—Leading up to All Saints Day, thousands of people from around the country flock to the town of Sumpango for a kite festival unlike any other. Local community members spend months constructing the gigantic kites that range from 6 ft to 60 ft in diameter. And with the sky painted with vibrant colors, the families and friends below honor the dead with a joyous celebration filled with food and drink, music, and dancing.
HUNGARY—Most Hungarians skip Halloween altogether and move right to the main events. All Saints Day (a national holiday) and All Souls Day (Halottak Napja) are dedicated to honoring the dead. On All Souls Day, Catholics pray for the deliverance of souls from Purgatory into heaven. Many will visit churches, as well as hallowed ground, to remember their loved ones and pray for their souls. Flowers are neatly arranged on tombstones and candles are lit as thousands participate in solemn prayer.
VATICAN CITY—Each year the pope chooses a special way to celebrate the feast of All Souls Day. This year, Pope Francis will honor all the faithful departed at the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery, where thousands of American soldiers were buried during World War II. According to the Vatican, the Mass will commemorate “all who have fallen in wars.” He will then visit the Fosse Ardeatine monument, the site of a mass execution in which 300 Italian civilians were killed by Nazi troops in 1944.
PERU—Peruvians begin their two-day celebration of Day of the Dead (Dia de los Difuntos) with family and friends, likely over a traditional meal called lechon (roasted pork) with tamales. Peruvians have a long maintained a deep-rooted connection with the dead, and it is not uncommon for the living to share a meal with them in the cemetery, play music, and offer up gifts such as colorful flowers and figurines.
"Since you are here...
…we'd like to have one more word with you. More and more of you are reading Aleteia, and we are excited to be a part of your life! Our team proves its mission every day by working to encourage and inspire Christian life. We want our articles to be accessible to everyone, free of charge — but quality journalism has a cost...more than ads can cover. To continue our efforts to nourish and inspire our Catholic family, your support is invaluable.