All ‘n All

Everything (almost) you'll ever need to know about All Saints Day and All Souls Day

All Saints day began May 13 in the 7th century under the charge of Pope Boniface IV. Boniface consecrated the Pantheon in Rome to the Virgin Mary and Saints in order to baptize the pagan culture and supplement the faithful’s celebration of the saints.

  • All Saints Day was then moved in the 9th century to November 1 in order to sanctify the pagan festivals falling on October 31.
  • The Latin term for All Saints: Festum omnium sanctorum.
  • All Saints Day today is a time to reflect on the communion of saints in the Catholic Church. It is a day to contemplate the three states of the communion of saints.
    1. The pilgrim church struggling to live faithful lives in this earthly existence,
    2. the triumphant church of saints already in Heaven,
    3. and the suffering church, existing in purgatory and awaiting purification and entrance to heaven.
  • All Saints Day is observed only in the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches.
  • Sticking to the original date of All Saints Day, the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates All Saints Day the Sunday after Pentecost as a way to punctuate the Easter season.
  • In the U.S., November 1st is one of the few remaining “Holy Days of Obligation” — meaning that Catholics are required to attend Mass as if it were Sunday. Paticulalrly in urban areas churches add extra services to accomodate additional Mass-goers. American Catholics also tend to celebrate the day with parties in which children dress as saints.
  • Around the world, many continue to celebrate All Saints Day. In Portugal and Spain people celebrate by offering flowers and prayers at Mass and the graveside of deceased relatives. In Poland, it is popular to light candles at the dead’s graveside.
  • In Mexico The Day of the Dead, Día de los Muertos is a holiday marked by a mix of pre-Hispanic and Roman Catholic customs that is celebrated on both All Saints and All Souls Days (November 1 and 2). While it is traditionally celebrated by visits to cemetaries and images of skeletons it is considered a joyful time when Mexicans remember their dead, and the continuity of life.

All Souls Day

  • Celebrated November 2, began with the decree Bollandist Acta Sanctorum, in the 6th century. It memorializes the faithfully departed and recalls our obligations to live holy lives and that there will be purification of the souls destined for Heaven – in this life or in purgatory.
  • All Souls Day also has pagan origins. Originally, the Celts would light candles or fires in order to light the soul’s way to the afterlife. Christians later would offer prayers. An especially popular activity was “souling” in which poorer Christians would offer prayers for the wealthy in return for money or food (called “soul cakes”).