All Saints’ Day, also known as the All Hallows or Hallowmas is a solemnity celebrated by Catholics in honour of all the saints, known and unknown.
Western Christians celebrate All Saints’ Day on 1st November every year while the Eastern Christians celebrate the day on the first Sunday after Pentecost, and the day is known as All Saints’ Sunday.
All Saints Day arose out of the Christian tradition of celebrating the martyrdom of saints on the anniversary of their martyrdom. When martyrdoms increased during the persecutions of the late Roman Empire, local dioceses instituted a common feast day in order to ensure that all martyrs, known and unknown, were properly honored.
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 and hence the day is known as Holy Day of Obligation.
Roman Catholics are required to attend Mass and to “refrain from unnecessary servile work” on this day.
History of All Saints’ Day :
All Saints’ Day was first celebrated on May 13, 609 (C.E.) when Pope Boniface IV accepted the Pantheon as a gift from the Emperor Phocas. Boniface dedicated it as the Church of Santa Maria Rotonda in honor of the Blessed Virgin and all martyrs. During Pope Gregory III’s reign (731-741), the festival was expanded to include all saints and a chapel in St. Peter’s church was dedicated accordingly. Pope Gregory IV officially designated the day in 837.
Symbols of All Saints’ Day :
Symbols commonly associated with All Saints’ Day include :
- 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.
All Saints’ Day Celebrations & Customs :
All Saints’ Day is observed by Christians in many countries around the world with different customs and traditions.
In countries such as Spain, Portugal and Mexico, offerings are made on this day.
In Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Chile, France, Hungary, Italy, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malta, and American cities such as New Orleans, people bring flowers to the graves of dead relatives.
In Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Catholic parts of Germany, Hungary, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Sweden, it is customary to light candles on top of visiting graves of deceased relatives.
The day is also observed in parts of Asia, such as the Philippines, where the day is known as “Undas” or “Todós los Santos” or “Áraw ng mga Patáy”. On this day Filipinos visit graves of deceased relatives and clean or repair them. They also lay flowers on the graves and light candles. Many sing, play musical instruments, and even burst fire crackers.
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.
In English-speaking countries, the festival is traditionally celebrated with the hymn “For All the Saints” by William Walsham How. The most familiar tune for this hymn is Sine Nomine by Ralph Vaughan Williams.