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What's the difference between Halloween, All Saints, All Souls, Day of the Dead?

Last edited 30th October 2016

What's the difference between Halloween, All Saints, All Souls, Day of the Dead?

The Days of the Dead are approaching. But do you really know what they are? Everyone knows the secular holiday of Halloween, which happens this year on Monday night, Oct. 31.

Americans dress up in costumes, decorate their homes and welcome trick-or-treaters to their doors by handing out candy. Not everybody knows Halloween derives from a holy day, All Saints' Day on Nov. 1, which is followed by All Souls' day on Nov. 2.

Halloween: Eve of All Hallows
The root word of Halloween is ''hallow,'' which means ''holy.'' The suffix "een" is an abbreviation of "evening." Halloween refers to the Eve of All Hallows, the night before All Saints' Day, the Christian holy day that honors saintly people of the past. All Souls' Day is a day to pray for all souls. Among Catholics, prayers are offered for those in purgatory, waiting to get into heaven. On All Souls' Day, Catholic churches have a Book of the Dead, in which parishioners have an opportunity to write the names of relatives to be remembered.

Building on rituals
All Saints' Day emanates from early Christian celebrations of martyrs in the Eastern Church, dating to the fourth century. The church observance was in turn built upon pagan customs of honoring the dead. The Christian concept of the importance of the individual soul underlies All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day, which are observed worldwide primarily in the Catholic and Anglican traditions.
A holy feast day
In the Catholic Church, Nov. 1 is normally a holy day of obligation, when all Catholics are expected to attend Mass. In Catholic churches this coming Tuesday, Nov. 2, for All Souls' Day, one of the readings during the Mass is from the Book of Wisdom, which is biblical for Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, but not for Protestants, who don't include it in their Bible: "The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them," the Book of Wisdom says. "They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction.But they are in peace."

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