All Saints / All Souls

November 1 and November 2 are important days of remembrance for Roman Catholics.  On All Saints Day (November 1), Catholics commemorate the saints and martyrs of Christian history .  On All Souls Day (November 2), faithful Catholics pray for all those who have died.  It is also a day for honoring deceased family members and famous individuals by visiting their grave sites.  In Lithuania, a country with a strong Catholic tradition, All Saints Day is a national holiday.  Since it is a day off work, November 1 has become in practice the day to visit cemeteries.  I didn’t go out to a cemetery yesterday but I have gone before on All Saints Day.  It is a moving experience to see families tending the grave sites of their loved ones and especially to see a sea of flickering candles across a darkened cemetery in the evening.

I did go to Rasų Cemetery today on All Souls Day.  I first visited the grave site of Mikalojus Čiurlionis, a famous Lithuanian composer and painter.  Immediately in front of his grave is the site of the unknown soldier from 1920, the year that Polish troops seized Vilnius and incorporated it into Poland for the next 19 years.

Some of the graves are piled high with candles and flowers — and even homemade decorations, such as this turtle (I think) made out of straw and chestnuts.

But there is at least one candle on every single grave in the cemetery, even those with worn or missing headstones — a sign of respect and honor for the dead.

About amanda

Creating academic and public environments for the humanities to flourish Researching Soviet and Eastern European history Engaging people and ideas as a writer and interviewer Traveling as much as possible View all posts by amanda

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