All Saints' Day

Print Friendly and PDF

In Western Christianity, All Saints’ Day is celebrated on November 1. (In the Eastern Orthodox Church and others, it is observed on the first Sunday after Pentecost.) This is the day when all the saints are honored, especially those who do not have a day of their own. It’s also a family day to honor the memory of family members, visiting the graves of deceased relatives and lighting candles in remembrance. The Christian church often observes All Saints’ Day with a reading of the Beatitudes. Among the eight blessings, the best known may be: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

As the Roman Empire spread across Celt-occupied lands in the 1st century A.D., the Romans incorporated many of the Celtic traditions, including Samhain, from which the holiday Halloween developed. Around 800 years later, the Roman Catholic Church further modified Samhain, designating November 1 as All Saints’ Day. As All Saints’ Day was formerly known as All Hallowmas, the evening, or e’en” before the feast became popularly known as “All Hallow’s Even” or even shorter, “Hallowe’en”. (Hallow meaning to sanctify or make holy. Saints or holy people are called “hallowed.”)

All Saints’ Day is observed in Latin America as part of the Day of the Dead celebrations. Relatives often visit the graves of their loved ones on this day bringing flowers, lights, and deceased’s favorite foods to the cemetery. In some countries, a common practice is to make or fry sweet dough, in the shape of donuts or braided strands or rolls.