What is the history of All Souls' Day? What is a biblical view of All Souls' Day?
All Souls' Day is a Medieval-era church feast day meant to commemorate the dead. In Catholic and liturgical Protestant churches, certain saints are given specific feast days. All Saints' Day is for all the saints. All Souls' Day is for every believer.
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The exact origin of All Souls' Day is unknown, but it isn't more than about 1200 years old. The Orthodox Church traces the first All Souls' Day to 893, when Emperor Leo VI was denied his request to dedicate a church to the memory of his late wife, and dedicated it to all Christian souls instead.
Originally, All Souls' Day was held around Easter time. The Orthodox Church celebrates it several times throughout the year, including four times around Lent. Roman Catholics and liturgical Protestants celebrate All Souls' Day on November 2, unless it falls on a Sunday, in which case it's moved to November 3.
The Orthodox Church celebrates All Souls' Day merely as remembrance. The Roman Catholic Church and some Protestants use the day to pray and do other indulgences to help loved ones escape Purgatory and continue on to heaven. Although Martin Luther discouraged praying for the dead, many Protestant countries still use All Souls' Day to clean up grave sites. In the U.S. and Canada, All Souls' Day has, for the most part, been overshadowed by Halloween.
The Bible's teaching on All Souls' Day runs from neutral to disapproving. It is fine to remember friends and family members who have died, and allowable to keep cemeteries neat. It is useless to pray for the dead—they are either in heaven or hell, and their fate is sealed. The teaching of Purgatory is unbiblical. Attempting to attract the spirits of the dead with food and gifts is incredibly dangerous; people do not become ghosts upon death, so any supernatural attention would be demonic. In general, it's probably best for Christians to ignore All Souls' Day.
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