Islamabad : For the past few days Christians have been visiting their graveyards to clean the graves of their loved ones for the observance of All Souls Day on Saturday.
There has been a hustle and bustle in the Harley Street graveyard as grass and dead leaves are swept away, graves covered with stones have been washed and white washed if they are not. The place gives a fresh and clean look befitting this important occasion for the Christian community. How many of those present at the graveyard understand what it’s all about is not known but their love and commitment to their long gone dear ones was moving, to say the least. At the grave shown in the picture it was the man who answered that it was that of his mother but it was the woman (wife/sister?) who was smoothing the ground around the grave and quickly jumped away when I took the picture. I couldn’t help wondering whether she was the daughter-in-law and how had she been treated by the person whose grave she was sprucing up in such a dedicated manner!
For those who are unfamiliar with this festival a brief explanation about why this day is observed follows. We are familiar with Halloween (literally “holy evening”), also known as All Saints’ Eve, an annual holiday celebrated on October 31. Information on this says it has roots in the Celtic festival of Samhain and gets its name from being the evening before the Western Christian holy day of All Saints (Nov 1st). It is largely a secular celebration as can be judged by the manner in which it is marked all over the world but is perceived by some believers to have religious overtones.
All Saints’ Day — sometimes called the ‘Day of the Dead’ (in the Roman Catholic Church officially the ‘Solemnity of All Saints’) is celebrated on the first of November in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. The day commemorates all those who have attained saintly vision in heaven. Specifically, in the Catholic Church, the next day, All Souls’ Day, which commemorates the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and reached heaven) is always November 2 (November 3rd if the 2nd falls on a Sunday). It is a Roman Catholic day of remembrance for friends and loved ones who have passed away, purposely following All Saint’s Day in order to shift the focus from those in heaven to those in purgatory and is celebrated with masses and festivities in honour of the dead. While the Feast of All Saints is a day to remember the glories of heaven and those who are there, All Souls Day reminds of obligations to live holy lives so that there will be purification of the souls of those destined for heaven. Besides special prayers in churches, many customs are associated with All Souls Day celebrations.
At home an altar is made with an offering of food and it is believed that the dead partake of the food in spirit, while the living eat it later. The offerings are beautifully arranged with flowers such as marigolds, which are the traditional flower of the dead, while a candle is lit for each soul. Incense is also often used and mementos, photos and other paraphernalia of the dead may also be placed on the altar. It is a time when families fondly remember the deceased but it is also a time marked by festivities.