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8 All Souls Day traditions from around the world

Dia de los Muertos

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Cerith Gardiner - published on 11/02/21 - updated on 11/02/22

Here's how Catholics around the world honor their dead.

Today is a solemn day in the Church calendar when we pray for the souls of loved ones and all the dead. In the past there were many thoughtful traditions that are no longer observed today. For example, in Irish homes, doors were left unlocked so the departed could feel welcome to return on that day and would find a place set for them at the dinner table.

While many customs have sadly died out, there are some beautiful traditions that still take place around the world. Here are eight of them. If you or your family have your own traditions, we’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Germany

During this time of year — Allerseelen, as it’s called in Germany — safety-conscious Germans will ensure all knives are safely stowed away, to prevent any visiting souls from cutting themselves.

Poland

Polish Catholics will visit their loved ones’ graves armed with chrysanthemums — a symbol of immortality — and a candle that represents God’s presence, which helps with prayer and contemplation. If you’re in a cemetery on this occasion, it’s a beautiful sight to behold.

Philippines

This time of year will see Filipino cemeteries full to the brim. Many families will spend lots of time at their loved ones’ graves: eating, chatting, praying, as well as cleaning and decorating the graves. It’s the occasion for families to spend time together, and there is a sense of merriment as everyone remembers their dear departed.

Ireland

Although many past traditions are no longer kept, the Irish spend their time praying and going to Mass to pray for their deceased friends and family members. Some families still light candles in their homes, especially in the rooms where loved ones died.

Mexico

Mexicans celebrate All Souls Day in combination with Dia de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead.” As in many Catholic countries, families will spend time at the graves of loved ones, but they’ll also make a home altar with food, flowers, and sugared skulls to honor those who’ve passed away.

Austria

All Souls Day is very welcoming in this European country. Families will make sure their home is nice and warm, and will leave cakes on the table to feed their deceased loved ones.

Malta

Catholic Maltese traditionally have a roasted pig for dinner. This stems from a custom whereby a pig would wander the streets wearing a bell. Locals would feed the pig, then it would be slaughtered that day and used to feed the poor.

Italy

While Italy has many traditions, many regions offer up their own sweet treats — or dolci dei morti, “sweets for the dead” — for the occasion. Often white cookies in the shape of a bone, they are a bittersweet way of remembering loved ones.

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Catholic LifestyleDevotions and Feasts
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