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On November 2nd All Souls’ Day is celebrated within the catholic tradition. A day on which the bereaved visit the graves of the deceased. They clean the graves and decorate them with (generally) white flowers and with lights. Traditionally catholic, All Souls’ Day is also celebrated on public and protestant cemeteries, sometimes under a different name. Is has developed into a heyday to honour the commemoration of the deceased. The last two decades show an increasing number of organised activities at All Souls’ Day. Cemeteries organise gatherings for relatives of all denominations, sometimes in cooperation with artists or rituals guides. A relatively new trend is that All Souls’ Day is more often celebrated in the evening, as a festival of light. The remembrance service is often larded with atmospheric music. Artists sometimes develop specific rituals for the bereaved, who can share their experiences and memories with each other in these rituals.



The community of people who celebrate All Souls’ Day is, in the strict sense, formed by all the bereaved who visit and tend the graves of their beloved deceased, on or around November 2nd. Churches and cemeteries pursue an active invitations policy. Artists or ritual guides are often involved in the organisation.  De Terebinth, an association, committed to the funerary culture in the Netherlands, and the Dutch Funeral Museum Tot Zover endeavour to keep All Souls’ Day for the future.


All Souls’ Day used to be celebrated throughout Christian Europe. Then, still, the salvation of the souls of the deceased was the key issue, who had to expiate their sins in purgatory. So, All Souls’ Day was not celebrated on cemeteries yet and the main concern was not the grief of the bereaved, like today. The custom seems to have emerged in the Benedictine monastery of Cluny, in France, at the end of the tenth century. At some point in the nineteenth century the custom arose to celebrate All Souls’ Day at cemeteries too. As of 1829 it was forbidden to bury people in churches. In the course of the nineteenth century it also became the custom to mark the graves with a personal funerary monument, in memory of the deceased. For the bereaved it became a spot to honour the commemoration of this deceased. Tending the graves on All Souls’ Day was common use in catholic areas and on catholic cemeteries. It is only from the nineties of the last century that more and more public cemeteries started organising activities, like memorial concerts.



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