By: Victoria Kiper
The Czech holiday Dušičky (All Souls’ Day) often draws comparisons to Halloween due to its proximity on the calendar and shared origins.
Despite similarities, these two holidays stand apart in meaning and celebration. Dušičky, a solemn occasion in the Czech Republic on November 2nd, pays homage to and remembers the departed, preserving its more religious connotations compared to its commercialised cousin.
Originally rooted in Catholic tradition, Dušičky has evolved over time to be embraced by both religious and non-religious communities. The root of the day revolves around prayers and thoughts for departed loved ones, seeking their liberation from the confines of Purgatory—a concept within Catholic doctrine.
“My dad… is more traditional, religious and was born and raised in Prague. Dušičky was used as a holiday to remind us to go to the graves of people who’d I guess, would count as my great-grandparents. It was important for both my dad and his mother that my father finds the time to go there, clean the tombstone, and light up a candle,” says Matyas Kousek, an IR student.
In Catholic belief, those with minor sins undergo purification in Purgatory before reaching Heaven. Dušičky provides an opportunity to pray for their release. Families often attend church services, placing wreaths, candles, and flowers at the grave sites as expressions of love and remembrance. Still, this tradition has seen a decline in participation among younger generations.
“I asked around, and people are pretty much in the same situation as me. Rather, they don’t care, or their families use it as a reminder to go and visit the graves,” said Matyas.
The roots of Dušičky extend to the 11th century with Abbot Odilo, a Benedictine leader from Cluny, France, who fostered its widespread adoption. Originating in Benedictine and Carthusian monasteries, it was gradually embraced by the broader community. Initially celebrated around Easter, Dušičky lacked a fixed date until its formalisation. The Eastern Orthodox tradition continues to honour a similar event around Easter.
A visit to graveyards across the Czech Republic on All Souls’ Day paints an idyllic picture, illuminated by the soft glow of candles and adorned with countless bouquets and wreaths. To immerse yourself in this tradition, I recommend a visit to cemeteries such as Vyšehrad and Olšany on November 2nd.