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A History of All Saints' Day

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A History of All Saints' Day

All Saints' Day is the holiday immediately after Halloween. In some areas where Halloween is celebrated, it may get less attention than secular Halloween celebrations. In areas with a historically high Catholic population, All Saints' Day still has a deeply important cultural relevance. All Saints' Day occurs every November 1st. It is a holiday celebrated by Catholics and some Protestants, which celebrates all those who have entered heaven. Though there are many saints that may not be recognized by the Catholic church, Catholic celebrations focus on those who have been officially canonized. It is also a holiday in the Eastern Orthodox Church, where it is celebrated the first Sunday following Pentecost.

The history of All Saints' Day.

It is not possible to accurately find the true origins of All Saints' Day, but historians say that it was chosen to occur on the same day as Pagan celebrations venerating the dead. The first recorded celebrations of All Saints' Day took place in the fourth century, around the Feast of the Lemures on May 13th. It was customary to celebrate the anniversary of a martyr's execution, but there eventually were too many Catholic martyrs for each one to have their own separate day.

The Church appointed a single day for all -- All Saints' Day. Celebrating this holiday on November 1st became official in the seventh century, when Pope Gregory III founded a repository for the relics of all of the apostles, confessors, martyrs, and saints. While Catholic celebrations of All Saints' Day tend to focus on saints, Protestants choose to commemorate all Christians.

How is All Saints' Day celebrated?

This day is considered a Holy Day of Obligation. This means that Catholic people are expected to attend mass as part of their observance. During mass, there is typically a reading of the Beatitudes, a collection of blessings given by Jesus. Afterward, people may light candles to dead relatives, or visit graves to leave flowers. Many countries around the world have also developed their own folk traditions surrounding this holiday.

All Saints' Day around the world.

This holiday is celebrated in some form all over the world. In Mexico, the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) occurs on All Saints' Day. The spirits of children are said to return to the world on the Day of the Dead. The day after, All Souls' Day, is when the spirits of adults return and the dead are remembered. Graves are cleaned and adorned with flowers, candles, and streamers, and merchants sell sugar skulls, skeletons, and coffins. People may also set up home altars to dead relatives, with photographs, flowers, food offerings, and other decorative or offertory objects.

In French-speaking areas, the holiday is called La Toussaint, and wreaths of chrysanthemum flowers are placed on graves. In the Philippines, the Day of the Dead (Araw ng mga Patay) involves visiting tombs to clean and repair them, and make offerings of food, flowers, or candles. Though celebrations differ from country to country, they all have some similar features -- visiting graves, prayer, and leaving offerings to the dead.

All Saints' Day prayer

It is customary to pray on this holiday. There are many prayers available, stretching all the way back to antiquity. One prayer, dating from the 10th century, is as follows:

"How shining and splendid are your gifts,
O Lord which you give us for our eternal well-being
Your glory shines radiantly in your saints,
O God, in the honour and noble victory of the martyrs.
The white-robed company follow you, bright with their abundant faith;
They scorned the wicked words of those with this world's power.
For you they sustained fierce beatings, chains, and torments, they were drained by cruel punishments.
They bore their holy witness to you who were grounded deep within their hearts;
they were sustained by patience and constancy.
Endowed with your everlasting grace, may we rejoice forever with the martyrs in our bright fatherland.
O Christ, in your goodness, grant to us the gracious heavenly realms of eternal life."

Though All Saints' Day is an important Catholic holiday, it has taken on the cultural significance of a day to venerate the dead. All around the world, people pray, light  candles, burn incense, and leave offerings to their dead relatives.. Whether you celebrate Samhain, All Saints' Day, or another autumn holiday, this is a time for showing love and appreciation for those who have gone before.