All Souls Day – the day of remembrance for friends and loved ones who have passed away – has great significance in the Czech Republic.
Dušičky – or “Little Souls” – as it is called in Czech is an annual pilgrimage that has taken place since pagan times.
The official Czech name is Památka zesnulých (“a remembrance of those who have passed”), but everyone calls the day dušičky (“little souls”) or všech svatých (“of all saints”).
Activities of the day include attending church services and lighting candles on the graves of the dead and those we remember. Czechs will lay wreaths and flowers at the grave and spend time honoring those who have passed with remembering.
If you visit a cemetery in the Czech Republic during this time, you will immediately note the flickering glow of hundreds of freshly lit candles making the entire area aglow in a very holy way.
You can visit the biggest graveyard in Prague – Olšany Cemetery (Olšanské hřbitovy in Czech). Here are some images of what a Czech All Soul’s Day looks like.
The November 2nd tradition
The tradition of visiting cemeteries on November 2 hails from the 10th century, when, during 998, Abbot Odilo of Cluny, France, made that specific day the official time to pay respects to those who need to be purged of their minor sins. In the beginning, feasts were held in local Benedictine monasteries.
Then Carthusians joined in. By the end of the 10th century, though, the tradition had spread throughout the Catholic Church. Thanks to Pope Benedict XV, from 1915 priests have been allowed to celebrate three Masses on this holy day – one focusing on the deceased, another concerning the priest’s intentions and the third dealing with the intentions of the Holy Father.
Before Abbot Odilo’s decision
But praying for the purification of souls was not always held in November. Before Abbot Odilo’s decision, it was celebrated during the Easter period. In the 10th century, the day of remembrance was moved to October.
Eastern Orthodox Churches
Eastern Orthodox Churches still honor their dead around Pentecost Sunday and have several such holy days throughout the year. For Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic Christians, most All Souls’ Day celebrations take place on Saturdays because that was the day Jesus lay in the Tomb.