In a folk belief the winter solstice (at the turn of October and November) was the time
when the forces of darkness and light can fight together. That’s why the boarder
between deceased and alives world is so fine and the souls of our ancestors are able
to come to visit their homes (according to a folk belief).
In a year 835 the Catholic church decided that the 1th of November is a day
dedicated to the souls of all the saints who are already in heaven, but in 998 the 2th
of November was chosen as a day when people pray for all deceased , especially
those in the purgatory. In Poland the 2th of November was a day to visit cemeteries
for many many years. After the second World War (when in Poland we had only one
free day in a week) 1th of November was called by communists Dzień Zmarłych (Day
of the Deceased) and that day was selected to visit cemeteries, to put candles on the
graves and to meet with families.
Why candles and lights? In the church fire is a symbol of light, power, grace and a
mediation with “the other world”. In Poland, Lithuania and Belarus was an old pagan
tradition celebrated in the XVI-XVII century called “Dziady” (“grandfathres”,
“forefathers”). That time people were gathering near cemeteries, putting the lights to
warm the souls which return to Earth. That night common people were organizing
feasts with food and drinks to share with the descendent souls and were praying for
them or were saying some magic words to help the souls.
Nowadays we put the lights on the cemeteries and we pray for all the souls.
Those 2 days are normally time for reflection and cemeteries look beautiful like
bathed in light.