While the 1st of November marks All Saints’ Day in the Catholic calendar, the 2nd of November is known as Vėlinės or All Souls’ Day in Lithuania. To me, it also marks the official start of winter.
My memories of this night are engraved with whirling snowflakes in the cold crisp air and strong winds howling out of nowhere – the winds ease the souls’ journey into the land of the living. This eerie night, to my delight, almost always brought snow as we walked from one cemetery to the other in my hometown to visit our departed friends and family.
Today, the celebration is a mix of pagan and Catholic rituals. Still, both days will see flickering candles line the graves creating a ghostly ambience all over the country – similar to the Day of the Dead in Mexico.
All Saint’s Day brings everyone together. Aunties and cousins you haven’t seen in forever, friends who moved away, everybody comes home. After lighting the candles, saying grace and stomping around in the cold, we always ended up at my godfather’s house – his was closest to the cemetery – to catch-up and warm up with a hot cup of tea.
All Saints’ Day and All Soul’s Day in Lithuania are rather elaborate events. But like many old traditions in Lithuania, they spring from the pagan days and in years past, All Souls’ Day was celebrated for days, even for weeks, with special rituals. While for Catholics, it’s a day of remembrance, togetherness, and reflection, our pagan ancestors believed it’s the time of the year when the veil separating the land of the living and the land of the dead is so thin the spirits can cross over. To celebrate the souls of the dead, families would bring food and wine and feast on the graves of the dead, leaving the leftovers overnight.
A vivid memory creeps into my mind as the day approaches. At my grandmother’s house, a table was set elaborately with food and drinks for many more people than there were present in the room. “For the souls of the dead”, the grandma explains, pointing to the extra plates. Grandma always set the table on the eve of All Saints’ Day, and after dinner, she’d leave it as is overnight so the souls could feast all night long.
The feasts have vanished with time, but the belief remains. Every year on All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day, graveyards all over Lithuania transform into a mystical sea of glowing candles. It’s a spectacular sight to behold, whatever your beliefs.
All Saints and All Souls days are not supposed to be superstitious. This is a sad misuse of a Christian holiday that has led many away from the Church. They are days to celebrate the saints in heaven and to pray for the poor souls in Purgatory. I wish people would stop trying to make this seem scary! Also, there is nothing in Christian teaching that souls “come back” for a day.
All of the Catholic Church throughout the world celebrates the All Saints’ Feast on 1 November and the All Souls’ Feast on 2 November. These are neautiful- not spooky- holy days celebrating the promise of eternal life given to us by Kesus Christ. Two days of positive spirituality and hope.
Very true, Kenneth, All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day are some of my favourite holidays. Thanks for stopping by 🙂
I am finding kids and adults walking on streets in zombie, vampire, murderer masks in general being quite spooky site too:)
Ha ha we quite agree with you, Rimas 🙂 One of our travel goals is the Dia de Los Muertos in Mexico.
I don’t celebrate it but in Mexico they celebrate the day of the dead with very similar festivities that became a recent Disney movie. The day is pretty big in California as well due to the large number of Mexican Americans. I plan to attend this year and write about the elaborate costes and face paintings they do.
Hey Alice, it’s my dream to witness the Day of the Dead in Mexico. Let us know when you publish the piece, we’d love to read it:)
Sounds just like Poland! 😉 pretty view with all the candles and flowers but spooky as hell!! 😉
Ha ha, agree! Love the spookiness of the candle-lit cemetery. Poland and Lithuania share many similar traditions 🙂