Many Catholics in the Diocese of Baton Rouge are finalizing preparations to visit their departed loved ones at cemeteries through southeastern Louisiana.

Visiting cemeteries on All Saints’ Day is a time-honored tradition that spans generations. Who among us could ever forget our mothers loading us into the family jalopy, the normal malodorous smell of melted candy and fast food wrappers graced by the fragrance of freshly cut flowers, and going to visit gravesites of distance relatives we never even knew?

Those customs differ worldwide.

The Day of the Dead, or Dide de los Muertosas, is actually a series of commemorative days in the Hispanic community. Traditionally celebrated over three days beginning with Halloween, the days include All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls’ ‘Day (Nov. 2).

In communities with large Mexican and Latin American populations, the Day of the Dead is divided into Dide los Inocentes, which is dedicated to the children, and celebrated on Nov. 1. The following day, Dide los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated.

Families will often spend an entire year making preparations. Although never festive, people will visit and repair graves, light candles, leave offerings of prepared food, pray and perhaps play some music.

It is also customary in the Hispanic community for parents of deceased children to place toys at their child’s graves on the Day of the Innocents. On Nov 2, small offerings of alcohol might even be brought to the adult graves.

In Mexico, there is always a concerted effort to ensure the United States’ tradition of Halloween is not celebrated over Dia de los Muertos, which is Oct. 31. Some cities have even gone so far as to post signs with the word Halloween posted in a red circle with a slash through it.

In many European countries with large Catholic populations, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are celebrated in ways much similar to southeast Louisiana, where people take off work and go to cemeteries with candles and flowers. In some customs, it is tradition to give children sweets and toys, perhaps a custom some of us wish our mothers would have incorporated for us.

Spain even throws in a theatrical bend, with the play Don Juan Tenorio traditionally performed on Nov. 1.

Although traditions might be more elaborate elsewhere, there are perhaps none as family-driven than those in our beloved region.  It is a day of not only spending time with loved ones, but also honoring the special memories of those who have gone before us.​