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All Souls' Day in the United States

All Souls’ Day in the United States is dedicated to prayers for the dead. The Day of the Dead is also celebrated on this day. Many western churches annually observe All Souls’ Day on November 2 and many eastern churches celebrate it prior to Lent and the day before Pentecost.

Is All Souls' Day a Public Holiday?

All Souls' Day is not a public holiday. It falls on Saturday, November 2, 2019 and most businesses follow regular Saturday opening hours in the United States.

woman praying in church

Some churches have special services for All Souls' Day.

©iStockphoto.com/andres balcazar

What Do People Do?

All Souls’ Day in the United States is a day of prayer for deceased souls. Many Christians visit cemeteries where their loved ones are buried.  Some cemeteries offer candles to be placed on these graves. The candles are blessed and marked with the names of the deceased to be placed at the designated grave sites. The Catholic Church remembers deceased members of the congregation on this day.

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)is celebrated in many parts of the United States, particularly where there are large Latin American communities. Day of the Dead events, which come in the form of festivals, parades and group celebrations, are held on November 1-2 to coincide with All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day. During these celebrations some people wear masks, carry signs, or put up elaborate decorations to honor the dead. Some community centers invite people to commemorate their deceased loved ones with ofrendas (offerings) through alters that include food, symbols, flowers, candles, photos and other mementos. Altars in memory of the dead are also made in people’s homes.

Public Life

All Souls’ Day is not a public holiday but people who live in cities where Day of the Dead parades, festivals and celebrations are likely to occur may need to check traffic reports on possible traffic congestion or blocked streets.

Background

All Souls’ Day was first instituted at the monastery in Cluny in 993 CE and quickly spread throughout the Christian world. People held festivals for the dead long before Christianity. It was Saint Odilo, the abbot of Cluny in France, who in the 10th century, proposed that the day after All Saints’ Day be set aside to honor the departed, particularly those whose souls were still in purgatory. Today the souls of the faithful departed are commemorated. Although All Souls’ Day is observed informally by some Protestants, it is primarily a Roman Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox holy day.

The Day of the Dead celebrations can be traced back to the various indigenous groups, such as the Aztecs and other pre-Hispanic civilizations, from as far back as 3000 years ago. Skulls were collected and used during rituals to symbolize death and rebirth.

Symbols

The skull, which symbolizes death and/or rebirth, is used for All Souls’ Day. With regard to the Day of the Dead, elaborately decorated skulls, including those made of candy, are made for the day. The Marigold is a traditional flower that is associated with the dead. Some say that the flower represents the rays of the Sun, which is linked with life, so the deceased have not lost their place in the universe. The raven and the crow have both been linked with death, although some say that the crow tends to be confused with the raven, which they claim is the true symbol associated with death.

About All Souls' Day in other countries

Read more about All Souls' Day.

All Souls' Day Observances

YearWeekdayDateNameHoliday Type
2015MonNov 2All Souls' DayChristian
2016WedNov 2All Souls' DayChristian
2017ThuNov 2All Souls' DayChristian
2018FriNov 2All Souls' DayChristian
2019SatNov 2All Souls' DayChristian
2020MonNov 2All Souls' DayChristian
2021TueNov 2All Souls' DayChristian
2022WedNov 2All Souls' DayChristian
2023ThuNov 2All Souls' DayChristian
2024SatNov 2All Souls' DayChristian
2025SunNov 2All Souls' DayChristian

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