All Saints’ Day or Solemnity of All Saints or The Feast of All Saints or All Hallows is a day to pay tribute to all Saints, renowned or not. This is a day of solemnity which is especially significant for it pays tribute to even those Saints who do not have a special day of Feast marked in their honor.
All Saints’ Day is the second day of the Hallowmas that comprises of the triduum which start from October 31 and ends on November 2, and encompasses All Hallows’ Eve better known as Hallowe’en), All Hallows’ Day better known as All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day. The solemnity is celebrated on November 1 as per the traditions of the Catholic Church.
In Eastern Catholicism however, the day is observed on the first Sunday after Pentecost. Christians strongly believe that there is a strong prayerful spiritual bonding between the souls in heaven and those living on earth. According to the Catholic theology, this is the day to commemorate all the souls who have been blessed to attain the beatific vision in Heaven. Catholic Churches and some other Anglican Churches observe the next day in memory of those souls who have departed but have not yet been purified and as such not reached heaven.
- According to some historians, the concept of All Saints’ Day dates back to the fourth century when the Greek Christians observed a festival on the first Sunday after Pentecost to honor all martyrs and saints. It is believed that at that time the feast was observed sometime in late May or Early June.
- Some other historians opine that although “All Martyrs’ Day” was commemorated since the early days of about 270 CE no specific month or date of celebration has been found in the records.
- The scope of All Martyrs’ Day was widened to include All Saints, martyrs or not, during the era of the Byzantine Emperor, Leo VI “the Wise”. When Emperor Leo’s wife Empress Theophano, who was a devout person, departed from her worldly abode, her loving husband wanted to build a church and dedicate it to her. But he was forbidden to do so. He then decided to dedicate the Church so built to “All Saints”. He believed that his wife being a righteous soul would also be honored every time the feast was celebrated.
- In 837 CE it was Pope Gregory IV who made All Saints’ Day an authorized holiday. It is believed that he chose November 1 as the date of such commemoration so as to supplant the Pagan Festival of the Dead known as Samhain.
Public Life in United States:
In the United States, this is not considered to be a federal holiday, as such businesses and organizations operate according to their regular schedule. The same is applicable in case of public transportation that runs as per schedule on this day.
- All Saints’ Day is observed by Christians in most parts of the United States. It is celebrated with special fervor in places where there is a relatively large Roman Catholic population. Many American communities, especially Latin American communities, club the observances of All Saints’ Day on November 1 with that of All Souls’ Day that is observed on November 2. Together these become part of the celebrations of the Day of the Dead, which is also known as Día de los Muertos.
- In New Orleans there prevails a custom to gather in local cemeteries and decorate the graves with flowers.
- In Louisiana, there is a huge population of Americans who have French Canadian descent, especially around Sr. Martinsville. As such, traditional French customs are adhered to on the occasion in this region. People decorate all graves at cemeteries with wreaths and flowers – even the most obscure of the graves are adorned. As the night falls, people light candles near the graves.
The United Methodist Church observes All Saints’ Day on the first Sunday of the month of November. In this observance, the members of the local church gather to remember the deceased members of the church. A candle is lit in each of their names and the names are called out. This is followed by a prayer that is offered for each of those departed souls.
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