ALL SAINTS’ DAY

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ALL SAINTS’ DAY

Does every religion/faith tradition celebrate All Saint’s Day?   Or whom? What is the meaning of All Saints Day?

All Saints’ Day, also known as All Hallows, Solemnity of All Saints, or Feast of All Saints is a solemnity celebrated on November 1st by the Catholic Church and several Protestant denominations, and on the first Sunday after Pentecost in Eastern Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, in honor of all the saints, known and unknown. The liturgical celebration begins at Vespers on the evening of October 31st and ends at the close of November 1st. It is 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 October 31st to November 2nd, as a synonym for the triduum of Hallotide.

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.

In the late spring, the Sunday following Pentecost Sunday (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 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.

In the Maronite Church, the Sunday of the Righteous and Just is the traditional Maronite feast in honor of all saints.

The Catholic holiday of All Saints’ Day falls on November 1st, followed by All Souls Day on November 2nd, 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, neighboring 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 honored by a special day. As early as 411 there is in the Chaldean Calendar a “Commemoratio Confessorum” for the Friday after Easter.

On May 13, 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 dedication Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. 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 May 13th, 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 day moved to November 1st and the May 13th 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 the November 1st 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 November 1st 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 November 1st. 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 October 31st and November 6th. 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 October 31st and November 5th. 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.

In Mexico, Guatemala, Portugal and Spain, offerings 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 (Dia de los Muertos) celebration. Known as “Dia de los Inocentes” (Day of the Innocents), it honors deceased children and infants.   Portuguese children celebrate the Pao-por-Deus tradition going door-to-door, where they receive cakes, nuts and pomegranates. This occurs all over Portugal.

Hallowmas in the Philippines is variously called “Undas”, “Todos los Santos” (Spanish, “All Saints”), and sometimes “Araw ng mga Patay” (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, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia and Sweden, the tradition is to light candles and visit the graves of deceased relatives.

Kathy Kiefer

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