Many nations, particularly Brazil, observe All Souls Day on November 2. This holiday, marked the day after All Saints Day, honors and prays for the souls who have passed on. Christianity also believes in commemorating the faithful souls and praying for those who haven’t yet reached heaven but are still in Purgatory. “Dia de Finados,” as it’s called, is a public holiday for Brazilians.
History of All Souls Day (Brazil)
People throughout history have always prayed for their dead. There’s evidence of this in inscriptions on catacombs, prayers in early monasteries, and other ancient burial sites. Major organized commemorations of the deceased would also occur in Benedictine monasteries in parts of Germany and other places. Saint Odilo of Cluny, a French monastery, first instituted November 2 as a special day to pray for the dead, even instructing his followers to do the same. He decreed that all monasteries dependent on the Abbey of Cluny should follow this tradition annually, paying respects to the faithful souls and giving alms and sacrifices to honor the dead. The practice slowly spread throughout the Christian world, going from France to Spain and beyond, and soon became a yearly event in most Catholic countries.
As the Spanish and Portuguese Catholics colonized Central and South America, their traditions and cultures combined with indigenous customs to become the unique festival we know as All Souls Day — Brazilian edition. Eschewing most other All Souls Day celebrations, Brazilians observe a quieter holiday, taking the time to remember and mourn their departed souls. They visit gravesites in advance to clean and decorate the place for this holiday. Flowers, primarily chrysanthemums and candles, that symbolize the light of their loved ones are placed on gravesites as decorations. Flowers are so intrinsic to this holiday that flower sales go up 40% annually.
The more devout Brazilians make it to Church for services, praying special prayers for people’s souls. Some even give up simple pleasures like meat and alcohol to show respect. Brazilians most associate this festival with the word ‘Saudade’ — a word only existing in Portuguese that describes ‘the feeling of seeing your loved ones go away.’ The feeling represents distance or grief and is a term most likened to the Brazilian All Souls Day celebrations.
All Souls Day (Brazil) timeline
All Souls Day commences as a brainchild of a French monk who wanted to honor the dead.
Rome and Italy adopt November 2 as All Souls Day.
The Dominicans establish a new rule allowing priests to celebrate three Masses on this day; during World War I, Pope Benedict XV grants this privilege to all priests due to the staggering death toll.
During the Protestant Reformation in Europe, All Souls' Day celebrations are fused with All Saints' Day celebrations by the Church of England, and separate celebrations are only reinstated in a few parishes by the 19th century.
All Souls Day (Brazil) FAQs
What do you leave out on All Souls night?
On All Souls’ Eve, candles or lanterns are frequently set on the graves and left blazing all night long, in addition to flowers.
What countries celebrate All Souls Day?
Christian countries around the world celebrate this holiday. Common names include the U.S., Canada, Italy, Belgium, Bolivia, Ecuador, Haiti, the Philippines, Uruguay, and more.
Did All Souls Day evolve from Pagan?
Contrary to what some believe, All Saints Day and All Souls Day did not evolve from paganism. But, some parts of pagan practices were included by other cultures, while others naturally became part of the All Saints and All Souls celebrations.
How to Observe All Souls Day (Brazil)
Remember your loved ones
Celebrate the souls you have lost by revisiting the good moments. Keep their memories alive by sharing these memories with people.
Hold a feast in their name
This holiday is a time for introspection, but it is also a celebration of the departed souls. Decorate your home with colorful flowers and fill it with friends and family for a special feast. Try out authentic Brazilian dishes to celebrate as the natives do.
Honor all souls on this day
Why only celebrate with your loved ones; share the respect with all departed souls this All Souls Day. Stop by a church if you’re religious. Share a good memory or two of this day with others to show people how you honor the dead. And, if you’re in Brazil on this holiday, you’ll see small historical demonstrations at cultural centers and various families celebrating their loved ones’ souls.
5 All Souls Day Catholic Traditions
Praying with specific prayers
It’s said that special prayers like the “Prayer for St. Gertrude” can release souls from purgatory and send them straight to heaven.
Church group prayers
In Brazil, some churches even hold group prayer meetings near cemeteries, encouraging people to light candles for the departed after the service.
The singing of songs and hymns
According to Catholic belief, after being cleansed of their sins, the departed's spirits are led into their ascent to heaven by special songs and hymns.
The creation of a home altar
Catholics celebrating this holiday around the world sometimes create a home altar with photos and memorabilia of the departed loved ones, plus the ever-present candles and some religious iconography.
The offerings of food and drink
Leaving food and drinks out for the departed outside their residences or graves is another All Souls Day custom.
Why All Souls Day (Brazil) is Important
It keeps a long-standing tradition alive
According to legend, the holiday has been celebrated since the 10th century and has become a global phenomenon. Tradition is significant because it preserves continuity between generations, enables societies to communicate their legacy with others, and serves as a vehicle for historical education.
It's a global holiday with regional flavor
Italians prepare special ‘fave dei morti’ cookies, Austrians set out bread and water for the hungry spirits, and Germans ensure all knives are away so spirits visiting won't hurt themselves. Different nations worldwide observe the holiday in different ways, but there is a commonality to the festivities: they are all meant to honor the deceased.
It celebrates love
Namely, love for the people no longer with us. Even while the Brazilian celebration has a more solemn tone, it nonetheless honors all of the memories and ties that souls leave behind.
All Souls Day (Brazil) dates