What is All Saints Day?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, October 27, 2014 1 comments

by Katie Erickson

As the weather turns toward fall, pumpkins and all sorts of pumpkin-flavored items start becoming popular. As October dawns, more and more Halloween themed items and merchandise starts coming out. But Halloween isn’t the only holiday at this time of year; there’s also a much less-commercialized holiday called All Saints Day, which occur on November 1.

Before we discuss what All Saints Day is, what exactly is a saint? Check out this blog post for more on that, but in short, a saint is a person who is considered to be holy. On this earth, saints are still sinners just like you and me, but once people get to heaven they are holy and deserve the title of “saint.”

According to Wikipedia and other websites, the history of All Saints Day is not known for sure, but it is believed to have been celebrated on November 1st starting in the mid-700’s under Pope Gregory III. Prior to that, it was celebrated on May 13 in connection with a feast of all the martyrs. The November 1 celebration of All Saints Day began to be more widely celebrated under King Charlemagne in the early 800’s, and has continued throughout history to today. All Saints Day has a slightly different meaning to different faith traditions. For example, in the Roman Catholic Church, the day is used to commemorate all people who have gone to heaven. Other Protestant (non-Catholic) churches use the word “saint” to describe the people of the church universal, so All Saints Day celebrates the worldwide Church. Some churches use the day to remember those who have died in the past year. Although the official All Saints Day is on November 1, many churches celebrate it on the first Sunday in November. In Mexico, All Saints Day happens on the first day of their Day of the Dead celebration, and they use it to honor children and infants who have died.

While All Saints Day is celebrated officially on the day after Halloween, there is only a weak connection between the two. Halloween is a pagan holiday, whereas All Saints Day is a religious holiday. November 1 marked the beginning of winter for the Celtic peoples, and since winter means cold, darkness, and death, this holiday was associated with the human death. On the eve of this holiday, they believed that the souls of the dead would return to earth. Various peoples developed traditions based on this, including large bonfires, offering sacrifices, and dressing up in costumes so the souls of the dead wouldn’t recognize them. This is where many of our Halloween traditions come from, which are not necessarily linked to the remembrance of the dead on All Saints Day.

So what does All Saints Day mean for us today? It should still be a time for remembrance, whether of those who have died or those who are a part of the Church universal still on earth, or both. We as a culture may seem to celebrate death and gore on Halloween, but the following day of All Saints Day should be used to honor those who have gone before us.


Father Nick Droll said...

Thanks for a very fair article. I would note that the customs surrounding All Hollows Eve such as bonfires, costumes, and even the date of the feast may have originated in paganism but have been successfully baptized as it were and are nothing to fear or avoid when done with good intentions much the same as the date and name of Easter, the date of Christmas, and your Merry Christmas tree.