With all of the hoopla now surrounding Hallowe’en, many newcomers to New Orleans may not know that today is as important or more to our culture as the ghoulish day before. All Saints Day is done in primarily Catholic places, like New Orleans, and is a day decreed by the Vatican as a catch-all day to pray to your saint of choice.
The day is honored by attending Mass and working on one’s family tomb, cleaning it and making it presentable for November 2 which is the Feast of All Souls or in some Catholic countries, the Day of the Dead. Taking time on All Saints Day is thought to have begun because most Catholic cities like New Orleans would decree the day before a holiday a day off and so people here used it to whitewash and make one’s family tomb presentable.
Today is a day to visit your nearest cemetery in New Orleans, and watch family tradition in action. Tomorrow, take a moment and remember your dead, especially those that you believe might still be in Purgatory…
The modern date of All Souls’ Day was first popularized in the early eleventh century after Abbot Odilo established it as a day for the monks of Cluny and associated monasteries to pray for the souls in purgatory. However, it was only in the Medieval period, when Europeans began to mix the two celebrations, that many traditions now associated with All Souls’ Day are first recorded.