The days of the dead | The Daily Star
06:28 PM, November 08, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 06:31 PM, November 08, 2019

The days of the dead

As soon as the last week of October begins, blood red paint, scary masks, and ghost costumes become an exciting matter. However, there is more to the days of the dead.


Halloween is celebrated on October 31, every year. As Dexter Kozen says, “Shadows of a thousand years rise again unseen, voices whisper in the trees, tonight is Halloween.”

This day comes from the ancient feast of Samhain, an ancient Celtic spiritual tradition to celebrate the harvest in “the dark half of the year.” According to Gaelic beliefs, the gate between physical world and the spiritual world opens up on this day, allowing spirits to enter our world and interact with humans.

The family of the deceased used to leave offerings outside the village for fairies so that the fairies would not take them to the spiritual world before they could meet their family members. They also dressed as animals and demons to scare the fairies off, allowing them to spend a longer time with the spirit of the deceased.

Around the 9th century, Christianity took over the Celtic region and addressing this culture, Pope Gregory marked November 1 as All Saints’ Day. In recent times, October 31 still remains as the All Hallows Eve, commonly known as Halloween where people, especially children, put on their Halloween costumes and sing songs for the dead. Chocolates and cakes are given to them in return.

All Saints’ Day

November 1 is annually celebrated as All Saints’ Day by Catholics. This day is celebrated to commemorate all the Christian saints, canonised by the church. This day has been formally celebrated since it was set as an obligation by Pope Boniface IV in 609 AD.

This day celebrates the annotation of all saints in heaven. A mess is held in their honour and all catholic Christians try to attend this mass unless there is an inexcusable concern. This day is also celebrated by the Eastern Orthodox Church and some protestant churches, especially the Lutheran and Anglican churches. Following All Saints’ Day, comes All Souls Day, the final day of this trilogy.

All Souls Day

Honouring the souls of the dead, November 2 is celebrated as the All Souls Day. This day is celebrated by all the Catholics. However, the Anglican Church holds one of the largest celebrations among other protestant churches on this day.

It is believed that when a soul departs from its body, it may not always go to heaven. Some souls are stuck in purgatory. A purgatory is a realm between the earth and heaven where awaited souls reside on their way to heaven. The souls have to cleansed and purified before they reach their final stop.

All Souls day is the day when the family of the deceased pray for their deceased relatives so that they can finish their ‘temporary punishment’ in the purgatory and enter heaven.

The family members visit the graves of their loved ones and decorate them with flowers and candles. Three masses are held at the chapel and graveyard of the Catholic Church on this day, one for the faithful departed, one for the priest's intentions and one for the intentions of the ‘Holy Father’. The priests wear black vestments for mourning, purple ones to symbolise penance and the white ones for resurrection.

The Dhaka Christian cemetery in Narinda, and the Holy Rosary Church celebrate this day, in a grand way.  The whole graveyard is decorated with flower petals, candles, and praying hands.

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