All Saints' Day

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The festival of All Saints, also sometimes known as All Hallows or Hallowmas ("hallows" meaning "saints," and "mas" meaning "Mass"), is a feast celebrated in the honour of all the saints, known and unknown. Halloween is the day preceding it, and is so named because it is "The Eve of All Hallows". All Saints is also a Christian formula invoking all the faithful saints and martyrs, known or unknown.

The Western Christian holiday (called Festum omnium sanctorum in Latin) falls on November 1, followed by All Souls' Day on November 2, and is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Latin Rite Roman Catholic Church, with a vigil and an octave.

Among the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholics, All Saints Sunday (Greek: Áγιον Πάντον, Agion Panton) follows an earlier tradition kept by the whole Church of keeping the feast on the first Sunday after Pentecost and as such marks the close of the Easter season. To the normal Sunday services are added special hymns to all the saints (known and unknown) from the Pentecostarion. Also Saturdays, generally, throughout the year are days for commemorating all saints.



Common commemorations by several churches of the death of martyrs began to be celebrated in the 4th century. The first trace of a general celebration is attested in Antioch on the Sunday after Pentecost.<ref>The Catholic Encyclopedia, "All Saint' Day".</ref> There is mention of a common day in a sermon of St. Ephrem the Syrian (373), and the custom is also referred to in the 74th Homily of St. John Chrysostom (407); it is maintained to the present day in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The origin of the festival of All Saints as celebrated in the West dates to May 13 in 609 or 610 (the day being more important than the year), when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs; the feast of the dedicatio Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. The chosen day, May 13, was a pagan observation of great antiquity, the culmination of three days of the Feast of the Lemures, in which were propitiated the malevolent and restless spirits of all the dead. The medieval liturgiologists based the idea that this Lemuria festival was the origin of that of All Saints on identical dates and on the similar theme of all the dead. Instead, the feast of All Saints is now traced to the foundation by Pope Gregory III (731-741) of an oratory in St Peter's for the relics "of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world", with the day moved to November 1.

So far as the Western Church generally is concerned, the November festival of all the saints was already widely celebrated on November 1 in the days of Charlemagne; It was made a day of obligation throughout the Frankish empire in 835, by a decree of Louis the Pious, issued "at the instance of Pope Gregory IV and with the assent of all the bishops," which confirmed its celebration on the 1st of November.

The Irish also maintained this November 1 date; it was once commonly held to be fixed by the date of Samhain, a pre-christian celtic feast. It spread from there until the date of festival was universally changed to November 1 by Pope Gregory III (731741). He designated November 1 as the date of the anniversary of the consecration of a chapel in St. Peter's for the relics "of the holy apostles and of all saints, martyrs and confessors, of all the just made perfect who are at rest throughout the world". By the time of the reign of Charlemagne, the November festival of All Saints was widely celebrated. November 1 was decreed a day of obligation by the Frankish king Louis the Pious in 835 issued "at the instance of Pope Gregory IV and with the assent of all the Bishops."


In Portugal, Spain and Mexico, ofrendas (offerings) are made on this day. In Spain, the play Don Juan Tenorio is traditionally performed. In Spain, Portugal, Italy and France, people bring flowers to the graves of dead relatives. In Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Lithuania, Croatia, Austria and Germany, the tradition is to light candles and visit the graves of deceased relatives. In the Philippines, the day is spent visiting the graves of deceased relatives, where they offer prayers, lay flowers, and light candles, often in a picnic-like atmosphere. In English speaking countries, the festival is traditionally celebrated with the hymn "For All the Saints" by William Walsham How. The most familiar tune for this hymn is Sine Nomine by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

The festival was retained after the Reformation in the calendar of the Church of England and in many Lutheran churches. In the Lutheran churches, such as the Church of Sweden, it assumes a role of general commemoration of the dead. In the Swedish calendar, the observance takes place on the first Saturday of November. In many Lutheran Churches, it is moved to the first Sunday of November


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This article incorporates text from the public-domain Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913.

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