Blog #51: All Saints Day

By John Cline

Here is a quick fact about All Saints Day: It happens this week, on November 1st, just like it does every year on November 1st. But, what is it all about?

In his article on the website, author Scott P. Richert wrote an article entitled: “All Saints Day” (with the subtitle “Honouring All of the Saints, Known and Unknown”), Richert writes the following:
‘All Saints Day is a special feast day on which Catholics celebrate all the saints, known and unknown. While most saints have a particular feast day on the Catholic calendar (usually, though not always, the date of their death), not all of those feast days are observed. And saints who have not been canonized—those who are in Heaven, but whose sainthood is known only to God—have no particular feast day. In a special way, All Saints Day is their feast.’
Even though Hallowe’en (the hallowed eve of something…of what?…of All Saints Day!!!!) has taken over in our culture, the history of All Saints Day long precedes Hallowe’en. Again, Richert writes, ‘All Saints Day is a surprisingly old feast. It 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 early centuries, this feast was celebrated in the Easter season, and the Eastern Churches, both Catholic and Orthodox, still celebrate it then, tying the celebration of the lives of the saints in with Christ’s Resurrection.’
So, why was November 1 instituted as the day in which to honour saints both dead and living, saints both known and unknown? Again, reading from Richert: ‘The current date of November 1 was instituted by Pope Gregory III (731-741), when he consecrated a chapel to all the martyrs in Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Gregory ordered his priests to celebrate the Feast of All Saints annually. This celebration was originally confined to the diocese of Rome, but Pope Gregory IV (827-844) extended the feast to the entire Church and ordered it to be celebrated on November 1.’
So, where did the word “Hallowe’en” come from. Again, from Rickert: ‘In English, the traditional name for All Saints Day was All Hallows Day. (A hallow was a saint or holy person.) The vigil or eve of the feast, October 31, is still commonly known as All Hallows Eve, or Halloween. Despite concerns among some Christians in recent years about the “pagan origins” of Halloween, the vigil was celebrated from the beginning—long before Irish practices, stripped of their pagan origins, were incorporated into popular celebrations of the feast. In fact, in post-Reformation England, the celebration of Halloween and All Saints Day were outlawed not because they were considered pagan but because they were Catholic. Later, in the Puritan areas of the Northeastern United States, Halloween was outlawed for the same reason, before Irish Catholic immigrants revived the practice as a way of celebrating the vigil of All Saints Day.’
As Baptists, we really don’t pay much attention to either Hallowe’en (other than to advise against participating in anything evil, including costumes) or All Saints Day. But, we do support light conquering darkness and thus we will always try to point out that the “E’en” part of the word “Hallowe’en” refers to an evening, and the evening is one that is “hallowed”. Thus, “Hallowe’en” was historically really pointing people to the next day in the calendar: All Saints Day, a day in which to honour all of God’s saints, both known and  unknown, both dead and living. These people served and serve their Lord Jesus Christ. Doing so should be a part of our lives everyday, so this All Saints Day is really about honouring servants of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Happy All Saints Day, everyone!
1 reply
  1. ken Harcus
    ken Harcus says:

    Our family gets the kids together to carve pumpkins. We display pictures of family members who have died and we briefly describe their lives and then we pray for their Souls and that we would grow to be a Blessing to our families are they were to us. This takes 10 minutes maximum. Any suggestions?


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