All Souls’ Day is a day of almsgiving and prayers for the dead. The intent is for the living to assist those in purgatory. Many western churches annually observe All Souls’ Day on November 2 and many eastern churches celebrate it prior to Lent and the day before Pentecost.
All Souls’ Day, in Roman Catholicism, is a day for the commemoration of all the faithful departed, those baptized Christians who are believed to be in purgatory because they died with the guilt of lesser sins on their souls. It is observed on November 2. Roman Catholic doctrine holds that the prayers of the faithful on earth will help cleanse these souls in order to fit them for the vision of God in heaven, and the day is dedicated to prayer and remembrance. Requiem masses are commonly held, and many people visit and sometimes decorate the graves of loved ones.
From antiquity certain days were devoted to intercession for particular groups of the dead. The institution of a day for a general intercession on November 2 is due to Odilo, abbot of Cluny (died 1048). The date, which became practically universal before the end of the 13th century, was chosen to follow All Saints’ Day. Having celebrated the feast of all the members of the church who are believed to be in heaven, the church on earth turns, on the next day, to commemorate those souls believed to be suffering in purgatory.
Priests celebrate mass wearing vestments of varying colours—black (for mourning), violet (symbolizing penance), or white (symbolizing the hope of resurrection).