We will celebrate two fantastic feast days in Our Catholic liturgical year soon, All Saints and All Souls.
All Souls Day, “The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed,” is set aside in the Church to honor the dead by remembering them, praying for them, and celebrating them. We believe that when one dies, one’s souls will live forever and either enter Heaven, hell or purgatory.
On All Souls Day, the ones waiting in purgatory are the souls we need to recall and pray.
One of our faith’s beauty is that it’s universal, and with that one gets different styles and customs in celebrating these feast days.
The Day of the Dead’s history comes from the indigenous people, Aztecs, who have combined their own ancient beliefs of honoring their deceased loved ones. They believe the gates of Heaven are opened at midnight on October 31, and the spirits of all dead children are allowed to reunite with their families for 24 hours. On November 2, the adults’ souls come down to enjoy the festivities prepared for them.
Their tradition of creating beautiful altars is to honor and celebrate the souls of those who have departed.
When the Spaniards came to Mexico, they educated indigenous people on the Catholic Church’s faith and which now you have All Souls Day – Day of the Dead in twine with religion and culture.
For example, Aztecs celebrated the “Day of the Dead” in the summer, yet the Catholic faith’s influence connected this celebration with All Souls Day.
When people die, many tend to forget about their souls and slowly their memories. This Day brings back focus to their beloved departed family members in this colorful celebration.
As Catholics, we are not calling on any spirits to come to this table of memories or honoring our departed. This is a dangerous act that the Church teaches against as you can see here:
All forms of Divination are to be rejected; recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dear or other practices falsely supposed to unveil the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots of phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.
This post show how the Aztec used this custom and how Spaniards add the truth and beauty of the Catholic faith to that custom.
It is to understand that Day of the Dead is a celebration of happiness and joy to remember our deceased loved ones, where sadness and sorrow are not allowed, a celebration of Life. One learns to respect that Life and understand that there is a circle to life and not fear dear, to be free to enjoy and appreciate every moment.
Here is how we create our altar for Day of the Dead twine with our Catholic faith.
First thing is that one must create 3 levels to the altar. These levels represent Heaven, Earth, and Purgatory. Purgatory would be place on the ground, the table would be earth, and then add a tier which will represent Heaven.
To create this tier, once can place boxes or crates on the table use a tablecloth over the table and box. Next you would decorate it by placing papel picado around the edge of the table and each layer. Here is a simple way to make your own papel picado.
1 Level: Purgatory:
Create a “purgatory” one usually makes a cross out of candles, which represents light, faith, and hope and decorates using orange marigolds, which reminds us of the impermanence of life and skulls which reminds us of the death of our loved ones. Print these out to color.
2 Level: Earth
Here one would place food such as the Bread of the Dead (simple recipe) or any favorite foods to recall the memory of the departed loved ones.
Holy Water, the sign of life and purity, and Sugar skulls are added to level Earth.
The Spaniards added those sugar skulls as a sweet reminder that there is only one thing for sure in life; death.
We make simple sugar cookies using these cookie cutters; Fred SWEET SPIRITS Day of the Dead Cookie Cutter/Stampers, Set of 4.
3 Level: Heaven
Place a crucifix on the altar’s top, adding icons representing your favorite saints, candles, incense, and marigolds.
Here you would place the pictures of family members that have departed in hopes of reaching Heaven.
All Souls Day, along with the Day of the Dead, brings us to focus on the meaning of life.
We are just on a journey, and even after death, we still are waiting to enter Haven.
The Church gives us many ways to pray and help the souls in purgatory. One can even receive partial indulgences by visiting a cemetery each day between Nov. 1 to Nov. 8.
These indulgences apply only to the Souls in Purgatory.
Here are some other ways to celebrate All Souls Day with the family.