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How All Souls’ Day Is Celebrated Around the World

In these countries, honoring the death is a sacred—and sometimes very lively—celebration.

SpainJorge Zapata / EPA/Shutterstock

Spain

Although they sound as if they’d be similar, All Souls’ Day is not the same as Halloween. In fact, they don’t even come from the same culture or religion. Halloween is thought to have come from the Celts, while All Souls’ Day (and its partner, All Saints’ Day on November 1) are products of Christianity. All Souls’ Day is a day of reverence for all those who have died—especially the ones Catholics believe are still stuck in Purgatory. On November 2 every year, many Spanish people celebrate All Souls’ Day not only by visiting graves, but also by bestowing them with special traditional pastries known as Huesos de Santo (Bones of the Holy). Learn more about why we celebrate Halloween.

All souls day. Multicolored candles lit to celebrate All Souls Day. They symbolize our memory of loved ones who have passed away. They express our respect to them. EwelinaBanaszak/Shutterstock

Poland

In contrast to the way other countries on this list celebrate All Souls’ Day, Poland makes it a very quiet, solemn affair. While other cultures hold parades in honor of the dead, the Polish people honor this day by lighting thousands of candles across cities and towns. The vision of innumerable flames in the dark creates quite a holy experience.

IndiaRudra Narayan Mitra/Shutterstock

India

India is known for being largely Hindu, but there are Indian Catholics. On All Souls’ Day, they often visit the resting places of their deceased to adorn them with flower wreaths and bouquets, as well as offer prayer.

Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. Participants of the Mexican holiday in death masksOleg Elkov/Shutterstock

Mexico

If there is one country known for El Dia de los Muertos, it’s Mexico. It’s part of the two-day celebration that starts with All Saints’ Day and continues through All Souls’ Day. One of the most anticipated days of the year, the Day of the Dead is when deceased family members are said to come visit with their family in the world of the living. That being the case, the Mexican people want to make sure they throw the most splendid party possible! The day is full of lavish costumes and parades, not to mention copious amounts of food and drink, especially the favorites of the dearly departed. Read on for 10 more fascinating facts about Day of the Dead.

HungaryAndocs/Shutterstock

Hungary

Hungary has its own native lore when it comes to All Souls’ Day. People here will leave a light on their loved one’s grave so that they can find their resting place again, because it is believed that spirits use this day to walk the living realm. Similarly, they will leave lights on overnight in the house and put food out to accommodate the spirits.

ItalyGregorio Borgia/AP/Shutterstock

Italy

Given that 50 percent of Italians identify as Catholic, it follows that All Souls’ Day would also be celebrated here. On November 2, some Italians will have a meal side-by-side with their deceased ancestor in the cemetery. Others will hand out treats to children who have prayed for the dead all year long.

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Peru

On this day, Peruvians will visit the graves of their loved ones en masse and offer them small gifts. Everything from food to flowers to dolls is bestowed upon the dead so that their souls know they are still loved. While you’re learning about All Souls’ Day, you should also check out these 12 facts you never knew about Halloween.

Figurines voodoo on Iron Market in the centre of capital city HaitiRafal Cichawa/Shutterstock

Haiti

Haiti’s All Souls’ Day combines Catholic and Voodoo tradition to create the ultimate celebration of the dead. It is known as Fet Gede, and Haitians come from all over the country to meet at the capital’s primary cemetery. There, they encounter and pay respect to the spirit of the dead, known as Papa Gede. From that point onward, it is a massive celebration filled with rituals and dances.

Central american colorful graveyard, cementery at El SalvadorFotos593/Shutterstock

El Salvador

El Salvador’s Day of the Dead is called La Calabiuza (meaning “skull”), and it is important to the country’s history and culture. This is less about religion and more about maintaining tradition, as it embraces Central American folklore rather than the lore of their Spanish conquerors. La Calabiuza involves dressing up as spooky characters, from the dead to the devil, but it is a sharp rejection of what we know as Halloween. Find out the spookiest towns to celebrate Halloween in America.

All Souls' Day at cemetery , Czech republic, EuropeBORTEL Pavel - Pavelmidi/Shutterstock

Czech Republic

There isn’t much pomp and circumstance when it comes to All Souls’ Day in the Czech Republic. Like the Polish people, Czechs honor this day by quietly visiting graves, lighting hundreds of candles, and sitting in thoughtful remembrance.

Rosary hanging in a car. Silhouette of African women in Angola.Adriana Mahdalova/Shutterstock

Angola

About 41 percent of Angolans are Roman Catholic, which means that All Souls’ Day is a big deal in the country. The religious attend several masses on this day, and some services are even held at the cemetery. Angolans also visit cemeteries, and like Hungarians do, leave lights on in their homes in case the wandering dead want to make themselves comfortable.

Pope reads the Bible in his office.uzhursky/Shutterstock

Vatican City

The itinerary for the Pope on All Souls’ Day changes every year. In 2017, Pope Francis visited an Italian cemetery reserved for American troops who had been killed there during World War II. The central focus of his prayers that year was to honor the soldiers of the past and to hope for fewer dead soldiers in the future.

Colorful different chrysanthemum pattern floral shop. Chrysanthemum annuals pink yellow green white violet chrysanthemum background card. Detail of many chrysanthemum flowers closeup wallpaper designReal Moment/Shutterstock

France

On All Souls’ Day is not a big deal in France, so the French people make their trips to the cemetery on All Saints’ Day instead, when it is tradition for them to bring chrysanthemums to the dead. You won’t want to miss these 21 bone-chilling, true stories of people who’ve received signs from the dead.

Taylor Markarian
Taylor Markarian is a regular contributor to Reader's Digest's Culture, Advice, Travel and Pets beats. She is also a music journalist who has contributed to Alternative Press, Loudwire, Revolver, Kerrang! and more. Markarian is the author of the book, 'From the Basement: A History of Emo Music and How It Changed Society', which analyzes the evolution of punk and mental health. She holds a degree in Writing, Literature & Publishing from Emerson College.