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International Religious Holidays and Observances III

Festivals celebrated around the world may involve old traditions or focus on recognizing a significant event in history. In this article, you will learn about observances associated with the Roman Catholics, Mexicans, Celts, and Swedes.

All Souls’ Day , Roman Catholic

On All Souls’ Day, Roman Catholics take the time to commemorate the faithful departed or baptized individuals who are thought to be in purgatory. Celebrated on November 2, the only time the date for All Souls’ Day changes is if it falls on a Sunday , in which case the day is celebrated on November 3. The holiday has roots that are traced back to the 11th century when an abbot of Cluny named Odilo established the day. He purposefully created the day so that people could think about those in purgatory. Three requiem masses take place on this day for the celebrant, the departed, and the pope. During the Reformation, the Church of England abolished All Souls’ Day, but the day was reestablished in Anglo-Catholic churches.

Las Posadas , Mexico

Las Posadas represents a traditional Mexican festival centered on Joseph’s search for a room at the inn. During the Christmas season, a processional carrying a doll representing the Christ Child takes place. Images of Joseph and Mary riding a burro are seen throughout the community streets. Beforehand, a home that has already been selected serves as the end of the processional. Lodging for the night will be asked and the people are invited inside so that scriptures are read and Christmas carols are sung. The hosts will also provide refreshments. The doll is left at the chosen home, which is picked up on the next night because the processional starts all over again. The event continues on for eight nights to commemorate the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

Beltane , Celtic

The start of the bright half of the year is represented with the Celtic festival called Beltane (which translates into ‘brilliant fire’). Named after the god Belenus, the festival starts off on Beltane Eve with two bonfires that take place in nine different woods. It is said that if domestic animals and people pass between the bonfires, they can eliminate misfortune and disease. When the festival took place before electricity was invented, the bonfire was lit with brands that rekindled the lights throughout the homes in the village.

During the ancient celebration of Beltane festivals, it was customary to include a great deal of sexuality. People would also dance around the maypole and songs were sung. During modern times, the celebrations still include maypole dances. Some people will also jump the cauldron to increase their chances for fertility and success in creative endeavors.

St. Lucy’s Day , Sweden

The religious-related feast day of St. Lucy is observed on December 13. Usually, the feast day is associated with Sweden and Norway, but other countries acknowledge St. Lucy, such as Denmark, Finland, Bosnia, and Latvia. Traditional celebrations may include a young woman who comes with sweets and lights. Sometimes, a procession takes place where one girl wears a crown of candles (or lights), while others in the procession hold one candle.