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An Introduction to All Souls’ Day: Family History’s Favorite Holiday


If family history had a favorite holiday, it would be All Souls’ Day, the thousand-year-old observance that falls every year on November 2, immediately after All Saints’ Day, which is on November 1. Like All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day is for remembering people who have died. While All Saints’ Day is focused on Christian martyrs and saints, All Souls’ Day is about the members of your own family and family tree

During the Middle Ages, most Christian communities held a yearly feast to honor the Church’s saints—martyrs who had died and gone to heaven. In time, this day came to be known as All Saints’ Day. In the 10th century,  All Souls’ Day was desinated as a day to pray for the souls of deceased family members—ordinary men and women who had lived good lives and were waiting in purgatory until they were worthy to enter heaven. The annual celebration became the final and third day of Allhallowtide—right after All Hallows’ Eve and All Saints’ Day.

In some parts of the world, the celebrations incorporate indigenous traditions and beliefs as well. In Mexico, it is known as Día de los Muertos . In Mayan culture, it was disrespectful to mourn for someone who had died. Hence the colorful costumes, lively music, and delicious foods that the day is famous for.

Read on to discover how it is celebrated in more countries and for some fun suggestions to start some family traditions of your own.