Macau’s time under Portuguese rule led to a small but persistent Christian population being established, most of them Roman Catholic. And this, in turn, led to All Souls’ Day, 2 November, becoming a public holiday in Macau.
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All Souls’ Day is a time when people think about, pray for, and gives alms on behalf of, dearly departed believers. Mostly, each family pays attention to their own ancestors in particular.
The idea of All Souls’ Day is tied up with the Catholic doctrine of purgatory, which says that believers suffer in fiery torments after death until their unpaid-for sins are finally purged away. Praying for souls in purgatory or giving alms is believed to speed their way out of that place of torment.
All Souls’ Day, along with All Saints’ Day on 1 November and All Hallows’ Eve on 31 October form the three-day season called “All Hallows’ Tide”. The observance of All Souls’ Day goes back to A.D. 998, when Odilo of Cluny started up the practice of praying for all departed Christian souls on 2 November. From there, it spread throughout Europe, including to Portugal, and finally to Macau.