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All Saints Day - Christian

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Wed, 01/11/2017 (All day)

 1st November 

All Saints Day - Christian 

All Saints Day - Christian day for honoring saints, known and unknown.  In general, saints are persons with reputation for unusual lives of holiness and devotion to God or who were martyred for their faith.  A Holy Day of Obligation in the Roman Catholic Church where saints have special formal status. 


All Saints' Day, also known as All Hallows, Day of All the Saints, Solemnity of All Saints, or Feast of All Saints is a solemnity celebrated on 1 November by the Roman Catholic Church and various Protestant denominations, and on the first Sunday after Pentecost in Eastern Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, in honour of all the saints, known and unknown.  The liturgical celebration begins at Vespers on the evening of 31 October and ends at the close of 1 November.  It is thus the day before All Souls' Day. 

Hallowmas is another term for the feast, and was used by Shakespeare in this sense.  However, a few recent writers have applied this term to the three days from 31 October to 2 November inclusive, as a synonym for the triduum of Hallowtide. 

In Catholic theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven.  It is a national holiday in many historically Catholic countries.  In the Catholic Church and many Anglican churches, the next day specifically commemorates the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and reached Heaven.  Christians who celebrate All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day do so in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual bond between those in heaven (the “Church triumphant”), and the living (the “Church militant”).  Other Christian traditions define, remember and respond to the saints in different ways; for example, in the Methodist Church, the word “saints” refers to all Christians and therefore, on All Saints' Day, the Church Universal, as well as the deceased members of a local congregation, are honored and remembered. 

All Saints' Day may originate in the ancient Roman observation of 13 May, the Feast of the Lemures, in which malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated.  Liturgiologists base the idea that this Lemuria festival was the origin of that of All Saints on their identical dates and on the similar theme of “all the dead”. 

In the British Isles, it is known that churches were already celebrating All Saints on 1 November at the beginning of the 8th century to coincide or replace the Celtic festival of Samhain.  James Frazer suggests that 1 November was chosen because it was the date of the Celtic festival of the dead (Samhain) – the Celts had influenced their English neighbours, and English missionaries had influenced the Germans.  However, Ronald Hutton points out that, according to Óengus of Tallaght (d.  ca.  824), the 7th/8th century church in Ireland celebrated All Saints on 20 April.  He suggests that 1 November date was a Germanic rather than a Celtic idea. 

In the East 

The Eastern Orthodox Church of the Byzantine Tradition commemorate all saints collectively on the first Sunday after Pentecost, All Saints' Sunday (Greek: Αγίων Πάντων, Agiōn Pantōn). 

The feast of All Saints achieved great prominence in the ninth century, in the reign of the Byzantine Emperor, Leo VI “the Wise” (886–911).  His wife, Empress Theophano – commemorated on 16 December – lived a devout life.  After her death in 893, her husband built a church, intending to dedicate it to her.  When he was forbidden to do so, he decided to dedicate it to “All Saints”, so that if his wife were in fact one of the righteous, she would also be honored whenever the feast was celebrated.  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. 

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. 

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 localized saints, such as “All Saints of St.  Petersburg”, or for saints of a particular type, such as “New Martyrs of the Turkish Yoke”. 

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. 

The traditional Maronite feast in honor of all saints is celebrated on 1 November. 

In the West 

The Catholic holiday of All Saints' Day falls on 1 November, followed by All Souls' Day on 2 November, and is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church. 

In the early days the Christians were accustomed to solemnize the anniversary of a martyr's death for Christ at the place of martyrdom.  In the fourth century, neighbouring dioceses began to interchange feasts, to transfer relics, to divide them, and to join in a common feast; as is shown by the invitation of St.  Basil of Caesarea (397) to the bishops of the province of Pontus.  In the persecution of Diocletian the number of martyrs became so great that a separate day could not be assigned to each.  But the Church, feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a common day for all.  The first trace of this we find in Antioch on the Sunday after Pentecost.  We also find mention of a common day in a sermon of St.  Ephrem the Syrian (373), and in the 74th homily of St.  John Chrysostom (407).  At first only martyrs and St.  John the Baptist were honoured by a special day.  As early as 411 there is in the Chaldean Calendar a “Commemoratio Confessorum” for the Friday after Easter. 

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; the feast of the dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since.  There is evidence that from the fifth through the seventh centuries there existed in certain places and at sporadic intervals a feast date on 13 May to celebrate the holy martyrs.  The origin of All Saints' Day cannot be traced with certainty, and it has been observed on various days in different places.  However, there are some who maintain the belief that it has origins in the pagan observation of 13 May, the Feast of the Lemures, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated.  Liturgiologists base the idea that this Lemuria festival was the origin of that of All Saints on their identical dates and on the similar theme of “all the dead”. 

The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III (731–741) of an oratory in St.  Peter's for 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”, with the date moved to 1 November and the 13 May feast suppressed. 

This fell on the Celtic holiday of Samhain, which had a theme similar to the Roman festival of Lemuria, but which was also a harvest festival.  The Irish, having celebrated Samhain in the past, did not celebrate All Hallows Day on this 1 November date, as extant historical documents attest that the celebration in Ireland took place in the spring: “...the Felire of Oengus and the Martyrology of Tallaght prove that the early medieval churches [in Ireland] celebrated the feast of All Saints on April 20.” 

A November festival of all the saints was already widely celebrated on 1 November in the days of Charlemagne.  It was made a day of obligation throughout the Frankish empire in 835, by a decree of Louis the Pious, issued “at the instance of Pope Gregory IV and with the assent of all the bishops”, which confirmed its celebration on 1 November.  The octave was added by Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484). 

The festival was retained after the Reformation in the calendar of the Anglican Church and in many Lutheran churches.  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 it 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. 

Protestants generally regard all true Christian believers as saints and 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. 

In many Lutheran churches, All Saints' Day and Reformation Day are observed concurrently on the Sunday before or after those dates, given Reformation Day is observed in Protestant Churches on 31 October.  Typically, Martin Luther's “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” is sung during the service.  Besides discussing Luther's role in the Protestant Reformation, some recognition of the prominent early leaders of the Reformed tradition, such as John Calvin and John Knox, occurs.  The observance of Reformation Day may be immediately followed by a reading of those members of the local congregation who have died in the past year in observance of All Saints' Day.  Otherwise, the recognition of deceased church members occurs at another designated portion of the service. 


All Saints' Day at a cemetery in Sanok – flowers and lit candles are placed to honour the memory of deceased relatives.  Poland, 1 November 2011 

In Mexico, Guatemala, Portugal and Spain, offerings (Portuguese: oferendas, Spanish: ofrendas) are made on this day.  In Spain and Mexico the play Don Juan Tenorio is traditionally performed. 

All Saints' Day in Mexico, coincides with the first day of the Day of the Dead (Día de los Muertos) celebration.  Known as “Día de los Inocentes” (Day of the Innocents), it honours deceased children and infants. 

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.  This occurs all over Portugal. 

Hallowmas in the Philippines is variously called “Undás”, “Todos los Santos” (Spanish, “All Saints”), and sometimes “Araw ng mga Patáy” (Tagalog, “Day of the Dead”), which actually refers to the following day of All Souls' Day but includes it.  Filipinos traditionally observe this day by visiting the family dead to clean and repair their tombs.  Offerings of prayers, flowers, candles, and even food are made, while Chinese Filipinos additionally burn incense and kim.  Many also spend the day and ensuing night holding reunions at the graves, playing games and music, singing karaoke, and feasting. 

In Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Chile, France, Hungary, Italy, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malta, Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Spain, and American cities such as New Orleans, people take flowers to the graves of dead relatives.  In some parts of Portugal, people also light candles in the graves. 

In Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Catholic parts of Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia and Sweden, the tradition is to light candles and visit the graves of deceased relatives. 

In English-speaking countries, the festival is traditionally celebrated with the hymn “For All the Saints” by Walsham How.  The most familiar tune for this hymn is Sine Nomine by Ralph Vaughan Williams.  Another hymn that is popularly sung during corporate worship on this day is “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God”. 

2nd November  

All Souls Day - Christian day of prayers of remembrance and intercession for the dead.  Prayers of the faithful are seen as helping to cleanse the souls for the beatific vision of God in heaven. 


All Souls' Day is a day of prayer for the dead, particularly but not exclusively one's relatives.  In Western Christianity the annual celebration is now held on 2 November and is associated with All Saints' Day (1 November) and its vigil, Halloween (31 October).  In the liturgical books of the western Catholic Church (the Latin Church) it is called The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, and is celebrated annually on 2 November, even if this date falls on a Sunday.  In Anglicanism it is called Commemoration of All Faithful Departed and is an optional celebration.  In the Eastern Orthodox Church and the associated Eastern Catholic Churches, it is celebrated several times during the year and is not associated with the month of November. 

Beliefs and practices associated with All Souls' Day vary widely among Christian churches and denominations. 

Among Eastern Orthodox and Byzantine (Greek) Catholics, there are several All Souls' Days during the year.  Most of these fall on Saturday, since Jesus lay in the Tomb on Holy Saturday. 

These are referred to as Soul Saturdays.  They occur on the following occasions: 

The Saturday of Meatfare Week (the second Saturday before Great Lent) — the day before the Sunday of the Last Judgement. 

The second Saturday of Great Lent 

The third Saturday of Great Lent 

The fourth Saturday of Great Lent 

Radonitsa (Monday or Tuesday after Thomas Sunday) 

The Saturday before Pentecost 

Demetrius Saturday (the Saturday before the feast of Saint Demetrius of Thessaloniki—26 October) (In all of the Orthodox Church there is a commemoration of the dead on the Saturday before the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel—8 November, instead of the Demetrius Soul Saturday) 

(In the Serbian Orthodox Church there is also a commemoration of the dead on the Saturday closest to the Conception of St.  John the Baptist—23 September) 

(In Slavic and Greek Churches, all of the Lenten Soul Saturdays are typically observed.  In some of the Churches of the Eastern Mediterranean, Meatfare Saturday, Radonitsa and the Saturday before Pentecost are typically observed.) 

In addition to the Sundays 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, unless some greater feast or saint's commemoration occurs. 

Catholic Church. 

All Souls' Day, Painting by J Schikaneder, 1888. 

Prayer for the dead is a documented practice in Judaism and in early Christianity.  The setting aside of a particular day for praying not for certain named individuals but for whole classes of the departed or for the dead in general cannot be traced to the earliest Christian centuries, but was well established by the end of the first millennium.  Prayers for the deceased members of Benedictine monasteries were offered in the week after Pentecost and the practice of praying for the dead at a date near Pentecost was also followed in Spain in the 7th century.  Other dates chosen were Epiphany and the anniversary of the death of some well-known saint, as shown by evidence from the beginning of the 9th century. 

By about 980, 1 October was an established date in Germany.  The 11th century saw the introduction of a liturgical commemoration in diocesan calendars.  In Milan the date was 16 October until changed in the second half of the 16th century to 2 November.  This date, the day after All Saints' Day, was that which Saint Odilo of Cluny chose in the 11th century for all the monasteries dependent on the Abbey of Cluny.  From these the 2 November custom spread to other Benedictine monasteries and thence to the Western Church in general. 

The official name of the celebration in the Roman Rite liturgy is “The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed”.  In some countries the celebration is known as the Day of the Dead. 

In the Roman Rite as revised in 1969, if 2 November falls on a Sunday, the Mass is of All Souls, but the Liturgy of the Hours is that of the Sunday.  However, public celebration of Lauds and Vespers of the Dead with the people participating is permitted.  A Sunday celebration of All Souls' Day is not anticipated on Saturday evening, as are a Sunday Mass and that of a solemnity or feast of the Lord that replaces a Sunday.  In countries where All Saints' Day is not a holy day of obligation attendance at an evening Mass of All Saints on Saturday 1 November satisfies the Sunday obligation.  In every country, the formula of the Mass on that Saturday evening is that of the solemnity of All Saints, which outranks the Sunday of Ordinary Time whose Mass would normally be celebrated on that evening.  However, in 2014, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops decided that for that year the Saturday evening (Sunday vigil) Mass in that country was to be that of All Souls. 

In England and Wales, where holy days of obligation that fall on a Saturday are transferred to the following day, if 2 November is a Sunday, the solemnity of All Saints is transferred to that date, and All Souls Day is transferred to 3 November.  In pre-1970 forms of the Roman Rite, still observed by some, if All Souls Day falls on a Sunday, it is always transferred to 3 November. 

Anglican Communion. 

The Church of England's Thirty Nine Articles of 1563 rejected the “Romish doctrine of Purgatory”`, holding it to be “contrary to the Word of God”, and the practice of praying for the dead is denounced in the Homily “On Prayer” (part 3).  Accordingly, the English Reformation abolished the observance of All Souls' Day, although many Anglican churches continued to be dedicated to All Souls, and many modern ones are also known by that name.  In the 19th century observance of the day revived among Anglicans because of the influence of the Anglo-Catholic movement.  Today it enjoys official recognition in the calendars of some provinces of the Anglican Communion, generally on an optional level and avoiding terminology that would imply either recognition or rejection of the concept of purgatory, on which there is wide divergence among Anglicans, ranging from outright rejection to support, as in the case of John Macquarrie and C.S.  Lewis. 

Protestant churches. 

Graves lit by candles in Sweden. 

At the Reformation the celebration of All Souls' Day was fused with All Saints' Day in the Church of England, though it was renewed individually in certain churches in connection with the Catholic Revival of the 19th century.  The observance was restored with the publication of the 1980 Alternative Service Book, and it features in Common Worship as a Lesser Festival called “Commemoration of the Faithful Departed (All Souls' Day)”. 

Among continental Protestants its tradition has been more tenaciously maintained.  Even Luther's influence was not sufficient to abolish its celebration in Saxony during his lifetime; and, though its ecclesiastical sanction soon lapsed even in the Lutheran Church, its memory survives strongly in popular custom.  Just as it is the custom of French people, of all ranks and creeds, to decorate the graves of their dead on the jour des morts, so German,  Polish and Hungarian people stream to the graveyards once a year with offerings of flowers and special grave lights (see the picture).  Among Czech people the custom of visiting and tidying graves of relatives on the day is quite common even among atheists.  In North America, however, most Protestant acknowledgment of the holiday is generally secular, celebrated in the form of Halloween festivities. 

In 1816, Prussia introduced a new date for the remembrance of the Dead among its Lutheran citizens: Totensonntag, the last Sunday before Advent.  This custom was later also adopted by the non-Prussian Lutherans in Germany, but it has not spread much beyond the Protestant areas of Germany. 

In the Methodist Church, saints refer to all Christians and therefore, on All Saint's Day, the Church Universal, as well as the deceased members of a local congregation are honoured and remembered. 

Origins, practices and purposes. 

Some believe that the origins of All Souls' Day in European folklore and folk belief are related to customs of ancestor veneration practiced worldwide, through events such as the Chinese Ghost Festival, the Japanese Bon Festival.  The Roman custom was that of the Lemuria. 

The formal commemoration of the saints and martyrs (All Saints' Day) existed in the early Christian church since its legalization, and alongside that developed a day for commemoration of all the dead (All Souls' Day).  The modern date of All Souls' Day was first popularized in the early eleventh century after Abbot Odilo established it as a day for the monks of Cluny and associated monasteries to pray for the souls in purgatory.  However, it was only much later in the Medieval period, when Europeans began to mix the two celebrations, that many traditions now associated with All Souls' Day are first recorded. 

Many of these European traditions reflect the dogma of purgatory.  For example, ringing bells for the dead was believed to comfort them in their cleansing there, while the sharing of soul cakes with the poor helped to buy the dead a bit of respite from the suffering of purgatory.  In the same way, lighting candles was meant to kindle a light for the dead souls languishing in the darkness.  Out of this grew the traditions of “going souling” and the baking of special types of bread or cakes. 

In Tirol, cakes are left for them on the table and the room kept warm for their comfort.  In Brittany, people flock to the cemeteries at nightfall to kneel, bareheaded, at the graves of their loved ones, and to anoint the hollow of the tombstone with holy water or to pour libations of milk on it.  At bedtime, the supper is left on the table for the souls. 

In Bolivia, many people believe that the dead eat the food that is left out for them.  In Brazil people attend a Mass or visit the cemetery taking flowers to decorate their relatives' grave, but no food is involved. 

In Malta many people make pilgrimages to graveyards, not just to visit the graves of their dead relatives, but to experience the special day in all its significance.  Visits are not restricted to this day alone.  During the month of November, Malta's cemeteries are frequented by families of the departed.  Mass is also said throughout the month, with certain Catholic parishes organising special events at cemetery chapels.  

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