All Saints' Day

All Saints' Day is a celebration of all Christian saints, particularly those who have no special feast days of their own, in many Roman Catholic, Anglican and Protestant churches. In many western churches it is annually held November 1 and in many eastern churches it is celebrated on the first Sunday after Pentecost. It is also known as All Hallows Tide, All-Hallomas, or All Hallows' Day.

Wheat is one of the symbols of All Saints' Day.

©iStockphoto.com/Willie B. Thomas

What Do People Do?

All Saints' Day is observed by Christians in many countries around the world. In countries such as Spain, Portugal and Mexico, offerings are made on this day. In countries such as Belgium, Hungary and Italy people bring flowers to the graves of dead relatives. In other parts of Europe, such as Austria, Croatia, Poland, and Romania, it is customary to light candles on top of visiting graves of deceased relatives. It is also observed in parts of Asia, such as the Philippines, where people visit graves of deceased relatives and clean or repair them. They also lay flowers on the graves and light candles.

In France church services in memory of all the saints are held on November 1 but by the evening the focus turns towards the dead. Cemeteries everywhere are crowded with people who come to clean and decorate family graves. All Saints' Day is closely tied with All Souls' Day, held on November 2, which is dedicated to prayers of the dead who are not yet glorified.

Public Life

All Saints’ Day is a public holiday in many countries such as (but not exclusive to):

  • Austria.
  • Belgium.
  • Bolivia.
  • Chile.
  • Croatia.
  • France.
  • Parts of Germany.
  • Hungary.
  • Italy.
  • Liechtenstein.
  • The Philippines.
  • Poland.
  • Portugal.
  • Spain.
  • Sweden (first Saturday of November) .
  • Parts of Switzerland.

It is not a nationwide public holiday in countries such as Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, or the United States. However, many Christians observe All Saints’ Day in these and other countries.

Background

According to some sources, the idea for All Saints' Day goes back to the fourth century when the Greek Christians kept a festival on the first Sunday after Pentecost (in late May or early June) in honor of all martyrs and saints. Other sources say that a commemoration of “All Martyrs” began to be celebrated as early as 270 CE but no specific month or date is recorded. Pope Gregory IV made All Saints' Day an authorized holiday in 835 CE. It is speculated that the chosen date for the event, November 1, may have been an attempt to supplant the pagan Festival of the Dead (also known as Samhain or the feast of Saman, lord of death).

All Saints' Day is not to be confused with All Souls’ Day, which was first instituted at the monastery in Cluny in 993 CE and quickly spread among Christians.

Symbols

Symbols commonly associated with All Saints’ Day are:

  • A sheaf of wheat.
  • Rayed Manus Dei (hand of God).
  • The crown.
  • Symbols (including images) of individual saints.

The liturgical color is white on All Saints' Day.

Note: While timeanddate.com has mentioned various countries that officially observe All Saints' Day, it is important to note that it has not listed every country that officially observes the day.

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