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All Saints' Day

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

All Saints' Day
Painting of various saints by Fra Angelico
Also calledAll Hallows' Day, Hallowmas
Observed by
Liturgical ColorWhite (Western Christianity)
Green (Eastern Christianity)
ObservancesChurch services, praying for the dead, visiting cemeteries
Date1 November (Western Christianity)
Sunday after Pentecost (Eastern Christianity)
Related to

All Saints' Day, also known as All Hallows' Day, Hallowmas,[3][4][better source needed] the Feast of All Saints,[5][6] or Solemnity of All Saints, is a Christian solemnity celebrated in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. Its intent is to celebrate all the saints, including those who do not, or are no longer, celebrated individually, either because the number of saints has become so great or because they were celebrated in groups, after suffering martyrdom collectively. From the 4th century, feasts commemorating all Christian martyrs were held in various places on various dates near Easter and Pentecost. In the 9th century, some churches in the British Isles began holding the commemoration of all saints on 1 November, and in the 10th century this was extended to the whole Catholic church by Pope Gregory IV.[7]

In Western Christianity, it is still celebrated on 1 November by the Roman Catholic Church as well as many Protestant churches. The Eastern Orthodox Church and associated Eastern Catholic and Byzantine Lutheran churches celebrate it on the first Sunday after Pentecost.[8] The Church of the East and associated Eastern Catholic churches celebrate All Saints' Day on the first Friday after Easter.[9]

Liturgical celebrations

In the Western Christian practice, the liturgical celebration begins at Vespers on the evening of 31 October, All Hallows' Eve (All Saints' Eve), and ends at the close of 1 November. It is thus the day before All Souls' Day, which commemorates the faithful departed. In many traditions, All Saints' Day is part of the season of Allhallowtide, which includes the three days from 31 October to 2 November inclusive, and in some denominations, such as Anglicanism, extends to Remembrance Sunday.[10][11] In places where All Saints' Day is observed as a public holiday but All Souls' Day is not, cemetery and grave rituals such as offerings of flowers, candles and prayers or blessings for the graves of loved ones often take place on All Saints Day.[12][13][14][15] In Austria and Germany, godparents gift their godchildren Allerheiligenstriezel (All Saint's Braid) on All Saint's Day,[16] while the practice of souling remains popular in Portugal.[17] It is a national holiday in many Christian countries.

The Christian celebration of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day stems from a belief that there is a powerful spiritual bond between those in heaven (the "Church triumphant"), and the living (the "Church militant"). In Catholic theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. In Methodist theology, All Saints Day revolves around "giving God solemn thanks for the lives and deaths of his saints", including those who are "famous or obscure".[18] As such, individuals throughout the Church Universal are honoured, such as Paul the Apostle, Augustine of Hippo and John Wesley, in addition to individuals who have personally led one to faith in Jesus, such as one's grandmother or friend.[18]

Western Christianity

The Christian holiday of All Saints' Day falls on 1 November, followed by All Souls' Day on 2 November, and is currently a Solemnity in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, a Festival in the Lutheran Churches, as well as a Principal Feast of the Anglican Communion.


From the 4th century, there existed in certain places and at sporadic intervals a feast date to commemorate all Christian martyrs.[19] It was held on 13 May in Edessa, the Sunday after Pentecost in Antioch, and the Friday after Easter by the Syrians.[20] During the 5th century, St. Maximus of Turin preached annually on the Sunday after Pentecost in honor of all martyrs in what is today Northern Italy. The Comes of Würzburg, the earliest existing ecclesiastical reading list, dating to the late 6th or early 7th century in what is today Germany, lists this the Sunday after Pentecost as "dominica in natale sanctorum" or "Sunday of the Nativity of the Saints". By this time, the commemoration had expanded to include all saints whether or not they were martyred.[21]

On 13 May 609 or 610, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs, ordering an anniversary;[22] the feast of the dedication Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. It is suggested 13 May was chosen—by the Pope and earlier by Christians in Edessa—because it was the date of the Roman pagan festival of Lemuria, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated. Some liturgiologists base the idea that Lemuria was the origin of All Saints on their identical dates and their similar theme of "all the dead".[23]

Pope Gregory III (731–741) dedicated an oratory in St. Peter's to the relics "of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world".[24] Some sources say Gregory III dedicated the oratory on 1 November, and this is why the date became All Saints' Day.[25] Other sources say Gregory III held a synod to condemn iconoclasm on 1 November 731, but dedicated the All Saints oratory on Palm Sunday, 12 April 732.[26][27][28][29]

By 800, there is evidence that churches in Ireland,[30] Northumbria (England) and Bavaria (Germany) were holding a feast commemorating all saints on 1 November.[31] Some manuscripts of the Irish Martyrology of Tallaght and Martyrology of Óengus, which date to this time, have a commemoration of all saints of the world on 1 November.[32][21] In the late 790s Alcuin of Northumbria recommended the holding of the feast on 1 November to his friend Arno of Salzburg, Bavaria.[33][34] Alcuin used his influence with Charlemagne to introduce the Irish-Northumbrian Feast of All Saints to the Frankish Kingdom.[35]

Some scholars propose that churches in the British Isles began celebrating All Saints on 1 November in the 8th century to coincide with or replace the Celtic festival known in Ireland and Scotland as Samhain. James Frazer represents this school of thought by arguing that 1 November was chosen because Samhain was the date of the Celtic festival of the dead.[36][37][38] Ronald Hutton argues instead that the earliest documentary sources indicate Samhain was a harvest festival with no particular ritual connections to the dead. Hutton proposes that 1 November was a Germanic rather than a Celtic idea.[39]

The 1 November All Saints Day was made a day of obligation throughout the Frankish Empire in 835, by a decree of Emperor Louis the Pious, issued "at the instance of Pope Gregory IV and with the assent of all the bishops",[24] which confirmed its celebration on 1 November. Under the rule of Charlemagne and his successors, the Frankish Empire developed into the Holy Roman Empire.

Sicard of Cremona, a scholar who lived in the 12th and 13th centuries, proposed that Pope Gregory VII (1073–85) suppressed the feast of 13 May in favour of 1 November. By the 12th century, 13 May had been removed from liturgical books.[21]

The All Saints octave was added by Pope Sixtus IV (1471–84).[24] Both the All Saints vigil and the octave were suppressed by the reforms of 1955.[21]

Protestant observances

The festival was retained after the Reformation in the calendar of the Anglican Church and in many Lutheran churches.[24] In the Lutheran churches, such as the Church of Sweden, it assumes a role of general commemoration of the dead. In the Swedish calendar, the observance takes place on the Saturday between 31 October and 6 November. In many Lutheran Churches, it is moved to the first Sunday of November. In the Church of England, mother church of the Anglican Communion, it is a Principal Feast and may be celebrated either on 1 November or on the Sunday between 30 October and 5 November. It is also celebrated by other Protestants of the English tradition, such as the United Church of Canada, the Methodist churches and the Wesleyan Church.[citation needed]

Protestants generally commemorate all Christians, living and deceased, on All Saints' Day; if they observe All Saints Day at all, they use it to remember all Christians both past and present. In the United Methodist Church, All Saints' Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in November. It is held, not only to remember Saints, but also to remember all those who have died who were members of the local church congregation. In some congregations, a candle is lit by the Acolyte as each person's name is called out by the clergy. Prayers and responsive readings may accompany the event. Often, the names of those who have died in the past year are affixed to a memorial plaque.[citation needed]

In many Lutheran churches, All Saints' Day is celebrated the Sunday after Reformation is celebrated (the date for Reformation is 31 October, so Reformation Sunday is celebrated on or before 31 October). In most congregations, the festival is marked as an occasion to remember the dead. The names of those who have died from the congregation within the last year are read during worship and a bell is tolled, a chime is played or a candle is lit for each name read. While the dead are solemnly remembered during worship on All Saints' Sunday, the festival is ultimately a celebration of Christ's victory over death.[citation needed]

In English-speaking countries, services often include the singing of the traditional hymn "For All the Saints" by Walsham How. The most familiar tune for this hymn is Sine Nomine by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Other hymns that are popularly sung during corporate worship on this day are "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God" and "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones".[citation needed]

Halloween celebrations

Being the vigil of All Saints' Day (All Hallows' Day), in many countries, such as Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, Halloween is celebrated in connection with All Saints' Day,[40] although celebrations are generally limited to 31 October. During the 20th century the observance largely became a secular one, although some traditional Christian groups have continued to embrace the Christian origins of the holiday whereas others have rejected celebrations.[41][42] On Halloween night, children dress in costumes and go door to door asking for candy in a practice known as trick-or-treating,[43] while adults may host costume parties. There are many popular customs associated with Halloween, including carving a pumpkin into a jack-o'-lantern and apple bobbing.[44] Halloween is not a public holiday in either the United States or Canada.

Eastern Christianity

The Eastern Orthodox Church, following the Byzantine tradition, commemorates all saints collectively on the Sunday after Pentecost, All Saints' Sunday (Greek: Ἁγίων Πάντων, Agiōn Pantōn).

By 411 the East Syrians kept the Chaldean Calendar with a "Commemoratio Confessorum" celebrated on the Friday after Easter.[22] The 74th homily of St. John Chrysostom from the late 4th or early 5th century marks the observance of a feast of all the martyrs on the first Sunday after Pentecost.[21] Some scholars place the location where this sermon was delivered as Constantinople.[45]

The Feast of All Saints achieved greater prominence in the 9th century, in the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Leo VI "the Wise" (866–911). His wife, Empress Theophano lived a devout life and, after her death, miracles occurred. Her husband built a church for her relics and intended to name it to her. He was discouraged to do so by local bishops, and instead dedicated it to "All Saints".[46] According to tradition, it was Leo who expanded the feast from a commemoration of All Martyrs to a general commemoration of All Saints, whether martyrs or not.[citation needed]

This Sunday marks the close of the Paschal season. To the normal Sunday services are added special scriptural readings and hymns to all the saints (known and unknown) from the Pentecostarion.[citation needed]

In the late spring, the Sunday following Pentecost Saturday (50 days after Easter) is set aside as a commemoration of all locally venerated saints, such as "All Saints of America", "All Saints of Mount Athos", etc. The third Sunday after Pentecost may be observed for even more localised saints, such as "All Saints of St. Petersburg", or for saints of a particular type, such as "New Martyrs of the Turkish Yoke".[citation needed]

In addition to the Mondays mentioned above, Saturdays throughout the year are days for general commemoration of all saints, and special hymns to all saints are chanted from the Octoechos.[citation needed]


The celebration of 1 November in Lebanon as a holiday reflects the influence of Western Catholic orders present in Lebanon and is not Maronite in origin. The traditional Maronite feast equivalent to the honor of all saints in their liturgical calendar is one of three Sundays in preparation for Lent called the Sunday of the Righteous and the Just. The following Sunday is the Sunday of the Faithful Departed (similar to All Souls Day in Western calendar).[citation needed]

East Syriac tradition

In East Syriac tradition the All Saints Day celebration falls on the first Friday after resurrection Sunday.[9] This is because all departed faithful are saved by the blood of Jesus and they resurrected with the Christ. Normally in east Syriac liturgy the departed souls are remembered on Friday. Church celebrates All souls day on Friday before the beginning of Great lent or Great Fast.[47]


All Saints' Day at a cemetery in Gniezno, Poland – flowers and candles placed to honor deceased relatives (2017)
All Saints' Day at a cemetery in Gniezno, Poland – flowers and candles placed to honor deceased relatives (2017)


Austria and Bavaria

In Austria and Bavaria it is customary on All Saints' Day for godfathers to give their godchildren Allerheiligenstriezel, a braided yeast pastry.[48]


In Belgium, Toussaint or Allerheiligen is a public holiday. Belgians visit the cemeteries to place chrysanthemums on the graves of deceased relatives on All Saints Day, since All Souls Day is not a holiday.[13]


In France, and throughout the Francophone world, the day is known as La Toussaint. Flowers (especially in Chrysanthemums), or wreaths called couronnes de toussaints are placed at each tomb or grave. The following day, 2 November (All Souls' Day) is called Le jour des morts, the Day of the Dead.[14]


It is a public holiday for schools and most businesses. Some German states such as Baden-Württemberg, Bayern, Rheinland-Pfalz, Nordrhein-Westfalen and Saarland categorize it as a silent day (stiller Tag) when special restrictions may apply for certain types of activities, such as concerts or dance events.[49]


In Poland, Dzień Wszystkich Świętych is a public holiday. Families try to gather together for both All Saints' Day and the All Souls' Day (Zaduszki), the official day to commemorate the departed faithful. The celebrations begin with tending to family graves, surrounding graveyards, lighting candles and leaving flowers in a cemetery the first day and, what often extends into the next. November 1 is a bank holiday in Poland and, while the following All Souls' Day is not. The Zaduszki custom of honouring the dead thus corresponds with All Souls' Day celebrations, and is much more observed in Poland than in most other places in the West.[50]


In Portugal, Dia de Todos os Santos is a national holiday. Families remember their dead with religious observances and visits to the cemetery. Portuguese children celebrate the Pão-por-Deus tradition (also called santorinho, bolinho or fiéis de Deus) going door-to-door, where they receive cakes, nuts, pomegranates, sweets and candies.[15]


In Spain, el Día de Todos los Santos is a national holiday. As in all Hispanic countries, people take flowers to the graves of dead relatives. The play Don Juan Tenorio is traditionally performed.[51]

Latin America


Giant kite (barrilete) at Sumpango, Guatemala.
Giant kite (barrilete) at Sumpango, Guatemala.

In Guatemala, All Saints' Day is a national holiday. On that day Guatemalans make a special meal called fiambre which is made of cold meats and vegetables; it is customary to visit cemeteries and to leave some of the fiambre for their dead. It is also customary to fly kites to help unite the dead with the living. There are festivals in towns like Santiago Sacatepéquez and Sumpango, where giant colorful kites are flown.[52]


All Saints' Day in coincides with the first day of the Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos) celebration. It commemorates children who have died (Dia de los Inocentes) and the second day celebrates all deceased adults.[53]


Hallow-mas in the Philippines is variously called "Undás", "Todos los Santos" (Spanish, "All Saints"), and sometimes "Araw ng mga Patay / Yumao" (Tagalog, "Day of the dead / those who have passed away"), which incorporates All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. Filipinos traditionally observe this day by visiting the family dead to clean and repair their tombs. Prayers for the dead are recited, while offerings are made: the most common are flowers, candles, food[54] and for Chinese Filipinos, they additionally burn incense and kim. Many also spend the day and ensuing night holding reunions at the cemetery with feasts and merriment.[citation needed]

Pangangaluluwa trick-or-treat traditions

Though Halloween has usually been seen as an American influence in the Philippines, the country's trick-or-treat traditions during Undas (from the Spanish "Honras", meaning honours, as in "with honors") are actually much older. This tradition was derived from the pre-colonial tradition called pangangaluwa. Pangangaluluwa (from "kaluluwa" or spirit double) was a practice of early Filipinos who sang from house to house swathed in blankets pretending to be ghosts of ancestors. If the owner of the house failed to give biko or rice cakes to the "nangangaluluwa", the "spirits" would play tricks (try to steal slippers or other objects left outside the house by members of the family or run off with the owner's chickens). Pangangaluluwa practices are still seen in rural areas.[citation needed]

Cemetery and reunion practices

During Undas, family members visit the cemetery where the body of the loved ones rest. It is believed that by going to the cemetery and offering food, candles, flowers, and sometimes incense sticks, the spirit of the loved one is remembered and appeased. Contrary to common belief, this visitation practice is not an imported tradition. Prior to the establishment of coffins, pre-colonial Filipinos were already practicing such a tradition of visiting burial caves throughout the archipelago as confirmed by a research conducted by the University of the Philippines. The tradition of "atang" or "hain" is also practiced, where food and other offerings are placed near the grave site. If the family cannot go to the grave site, a specific area in the house is provided for the offering.[citation needed]

The exact date of Undas today, 1 November, is not a pre-colonial observance date but an influence from Mexico, where the same day is known as the Day of the Dead. Pre-colonial Filipinos preferred going to the burial caves of the departed occasionally as they believed that aswang (half-vampire half-werewolf beings) would take the corpse of the dead if the body was not properly guarded. The protection of the body of the loved one is called "paglalamay". However, in some communities, this paglalamay tradition is non-existent and is replaced by other pre-colonial traditions unique to each community.[citation needed]

The Undas is also seen as a family reunion, where family members coming from various regions go back to their hometown to visit the grave of loved ones. Family members are expected to remain beside the grave for the entire day and socialize with each other to mend bonds and enhance family relations. In some cases, family members going to certain burial sites exceed one hundred people. Fighting in any form is prohibited during Undas.[citation needed]

Roles of children

Children have important roles during Undas. Children are allowed to play with melted candles in front of grave sites and turn the melted wax from the candles into round wax balls. The round balls of wax symbolize the affirmation that everything goes back to where it began, as the living will go back to ash, where everything started. In some cases, families also light candles at the front door of the home. The number of candles is equivalent to the number of departed loved ones. It is believed that this tradition aids departed loved ones and provide them with a happy path to the afterlife.[55][56][57]

See also


  1. ^ Marty, Martin E. (2007). Lutheran questions, Lutheran answers: exploring Christian faith. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress. p. 127. ISBN 978-0806653501. Retrieved 2 November 2011. All Lutherans celebrate All Saints Day, and many sing, 'For all the saints, who from their labors rest…'
  2. ^ Willimon, William H. (2007). United Methodist Beliefs. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 64. ISBN 978-1611640618. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  3. ^ "Shakespearian Glossary". Archived from the original on 23 April 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
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  6. ^ St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco. "Homily on the Feast of All Saints of Russia". St. John Chrysostom Orthodox Church.
  7. ^ Public Domain Mershman, Francis (1913). "All Saints' Day". In Herbermann, Charles (ed.). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 30 October 2020.
  8. ^ Sidhu, Salatiel; Baldovin, John Francis (2013). Holidays and Rituals of Jews and Christians. p. 193. ISBN 978-1481711401. Lutheran and Orthodox Churches who do not call themselves Roman Catholic Churches have maintained the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church, still celebrate this Day. Even the Protestant Churches like the United Methodist Church all celebrate this day as the All Souls Day and call it All Saints day.
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  10. ^ Leslie, Frank (1895). Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly. Allhallowtide. Frank Leslie Publishing House. p. 539. Retrieved 9 April 2014. Just as the term "Eastertide" expresses for us the whole of the church services and ancient customs attached to the festival of Easter, from Palm Sunday until Easter Monday, so does All-hallowtide include for us all the various customs, obsolete and still observed, of Halloween, All Saints' and All Souls' Days. From the 31st of October until the morning of the 3rd of November, this period of three days, known as All-hallowtide, is full of traditional and legendary lore.
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  55. ^
  56. ^ Cruz, Elfren S. (31 October 2013). "Undas in Filipino culture". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  57. ^ Miaco, Mimi (29 October 2015). "10 Things Pinoys Do During Undas". Spot. Retrieved 6 December 2018.

Further reading

  • Langgärtner, Georg. "All Saints' Day". In The Encyclopedia of Christianity, edited by Erwin Fahlbusch and Geoffrey William Bromiley, 41. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1999. ISBN 0802824137.

External links

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