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.
In many Catholic countries, people attend churches, which are appropriately draped in black, and visit family graves to honor their ancestors. All Souls’ Day is connected with All Saints’ Day, which is observed on the day before, where people take the time to decorate the graves of deceased loved ones and light candles in their memory. All Souls’ Day in Mexico is a national holiday called Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
Many people believe that the spirits of the dead return to enjoy a visit to their friends and relatives on this day. Long before sunrise, people stream into the cemeteries laden with candles, flowers and food that is often shaped and decorated to resemble the symbols of death. Children eat tiny chocolate hearse, sugar funeral wreaths, and candy skulls and coffins. But the atmosphere is festive.
In the United States Día de los Muertos is celebrated in areas such as Los Angeles where there is a large Latin American population. The Day of the Dead is a popular time to see performances of the Ancient Spanish drama, Don Juan Tenorio, about a reckless lover who kills the father of a woman he tried to seduce and then erects the statue of his victim. According to this fictitious play, the statue comes alive and drags Don Juan to hell for account of his crimes.
All souls' Day in Brazil