All Saints’ Day is a holy day of the Church celebrated annually on November 1. The day is dedicated to the saints of the Church; that is, all those who have attained heaven. We remember, and give thanks, for their lives and ministries among us.
All Saints’ Day was formally started by Pope Boniface IV, who consecrated the Parthenon at Rome to the Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs on May 13 in 609 AD. The choice of the day may have been intended to co-opt the pagan holiday “Feast of the Lamures,” a day which pagans used to placate the restless spirits of the dead.
Following the Protestant Reformation, many Protestants retained the holy day, although they dismissed the need to pray for the dead. Instead, the day has been used to commemorate those who have recently died, usually in the past year, and to remember the examples of those who lived holy lives.
Holy day customs vary around the world. In the United States, the day before is Halloween and is usually celebrated by dressing in costumes with themes of death commonly associated. Children go door-to-door in costume, trick-or-treating, that is soliciting candy from their neighbors. The holiday has lost much of its connection to its religious origins.
Although nearly everyone celebrates Halloween for the fun of the secular holiday, the following religious solemnity is not widely practiced or acknowledged by most Americans.
In other countries, such as Portugal, Spain and Mexico, traditional practices include performance of the play, “Don Juan Tenorio” and offerings made to the dead. All Saints’ Say occurs on the same day as the Mexican “Dide los Innocentes” a day dedicated to deceased children.
Across much of Europe, the day is commemorated with offerings of flowers left on the graves of the dead. In Eastern Europe, candles are lit on graves instead of offerings of flowers.
In some places, such as the Philippines, graves can be painted and repaired by family members.