Sunday, October 24, 2010

All Souls Day - A Catholic Holiday

As I hang some more decorations for Halloween and also for Thanksgiving, I suddenly remember that around this time most Catholics are preparing for another holiday - the observance of All Souls Day.
In contrast to halloween, All Souls Day is not about ghosts, ghouls, goblins or monsters or the dark, cold, gray skies and eery air. In the Philippines, a week or two before this holiday, my mother, my sisters and I would go to the cemetery and clean the gravesite of my brother and a niece. We pulled weeds, cleaned and repainted the graves in preparation for the day. A day before All Souls Day, we went to the market to buy flowers and candles and also ingredients for rice cake. On All Souls Day we first went to church and then head on to the cemetery with our flowers and candles and rice cake. The road to the cemetery was full of people, cars, jeepneys and the sidewalks had vendors selling flowers and candles. It was a day set aside to remember our dearly departed and this tradition is passed on to the next generation. Now, I realize that this holiday was observed by our parents and their parents to remember their loved ones, prayed for the souls of the dead and those of us that are living.

It's been years since I have celebrated this holiday. When I moved to the US, I had learned to celebrate halloween instead. My children have not seen the rituals that we in the Philippines observed and enjoyed. My sister and her family continue the tradition of going to the cemetery where my parents are buried. My excuse is - I live too far from the cemetery and before that, I lived in another state.

Now, I understand what the tradition was supposed to be. Prayers and masses are offered for the dearly departed's repose of their soul. Flowers serve as a living memory reminding us that once these people had remained close to us and they, like us, had once been fascinated by the beauty and color of life. Lighted candles likewise signify that the love, hope and joy they shared with people they had left behind shall be kept forever burning and alive even though they may have found their destiny somewhere or even in the arms of the Heavenly Father.

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