All Saints' Day

All Saints' Day, also known as All Hallows' Day, Hallowmas,[3][4] the Feast of All Saints,[5][6] or Solemnity of All Saints,[7] is a Christian festival celebrated in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. In Western Christianity, it is celebrated on November the 1st by the Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, the Methodist Church, the Church of the Nazarene[8], the Lutheran Church, the Reformed Church, and other Protestant churches, November 1st is also the day before All Souls' Day. The Eastern Orthodox Church and associated Eastern Catholic Churches and Byzantine Lutheran Churches celebrate it on the first Sunday after Pentecost.[9] Oriental Orthodox churches of Chaldea and associated Eastern Catholic churches celebrate All Saints' Day on the first Friday after Easter.[10]

All Saints' Day
Painting of various saints by Fra Angelico
Also calledAll Hallows' Day, Hallowmas
Observed by
Liturgical ColorWhite (Western Christianity)
Green (Eastern Christianity)
ObservancesChurch services, praying for the dead, visiting cemeteries, eating soul cakes
Date1 November (Western Christianity)
Sunday after Pentecost (Eastern Christianity)
Related to

In the Western Christian practice, the liturgical celebration begins at Vespers on the evening of 31 October, All Hallows' Eve (All Saints' Eve), and ends at the close of 1 November. It is thus the day before All Souls' Day, which commemorates the faithful departed. In many traditions, All Saints' Day is part of the season of Allhallowtide, which includes the three days from 31 October to 2 November inclusive and in some denominations, such as Anglicanism, extends to Remembrance Sunday.[11][12] In places where All Saints' Day is observed as a public holiday but All Souls' Day is not, cemetery and grave rituals such as offerings of flowers, candles and prayers or blessings for the graves of loved ones often take place on All Saints Day.[13][14][15][16] In Austria and Germany, godparents gift their godchildren Allerheiligenstriezel (All Saint's Braid) on All Saint's Day,[17] while the practice of souling remains popular in Portugal.[18] It is a national holiday in many Christian countries.

The Christian celebration of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day stems from a belief that there is a powerful spiritual bond between those in heaven (the "Church triumphant"), and the living (the "Church militant"). In Catholic theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. In Methodist theology, All Saints Day revolves around "giving God solemn thanks for the lives and deaths of his saints", including those who are "famous or obscure".[19] As such, individuals throughout the Church Universal are honoured, such as Paul the Apostle, Augustine of Hippo and John Wesley, in addition to individuals who have personally led one to faith in Jesus, such as one's grandmother or friend.[19]

Combined celebrations of All Saints and All Souls

In some countries, All Saints' Day is a public holiday, but All Souls' Day is not. Consequently, people visit graves and conduct other All Souls' Day practices on All Saints Day instead. Countries where All Souls' Day traditions are observed on All Saints' Day in this fashion include Belgium[14], Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France[15], Finland, Germany, Guatemala[20], Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, the Philippians[21], Poland, Portugal[16], Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia, and Sweden.

In Eastern Europe and Western Asia

The Eastern Orthodox Church, following the Byzantine tradition, commemorates all saints collectively on the Sunday after Pentecost, All Saints' Sunday (Greek: Ἁγίων Πάντων, Agiōn Pantōn).

A hymn by St. Ephraem from approximately 359 mentions a commemoration of all the martyrs at Edessa on May 13. By 411 the East Syrians kept the Chaldean Calendar with a "Commemoratio Confessorum" celebrated on the Friday after Easter.[22] commemoration on the Friday after Easter. The 74th homily of St. John Chrysostom from the late 4th or early 5th century marks the observance of a feast of all the martyrs on the first Sunday after Pentecost.[23]Some scholars place the location where this sermon was delivered as Constantinople.[24] The Byzantine Rite still celebrates the Feast of All Saints on the first Sunday after Pentecost.

The Feast of All Saints achieved greater prominence in the 9th century, in the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Leo VI "the Wise" (866–911). His wife, Empress Theophano – commemorated on 16 December – lived a devout life. After her death in 893,[25] her husband built a church, intending to dedicate it to her. When he was forbidden to do so, he decided to dedicate it to "All Saints", so that if his wife were in fact one of the righteous, she would also be honoured whenever the feast was celebrated.[26] According to tradition, it was Leo who expanded the feast from a commemoration of All Martyrs to a general commemoration of All Saints, whether martyrs or not.

This Sunday marks the close of the Paschal season. To the normal Sunday services are added special scriptural readings and hymns to all the saints (known and unknown) from the Pentecostarion.

In the late spring, the Sunday following Pentecost Saturday (50 days after Easter) is set aside as a commemoration of all locally venerated saints, such as "All Saints of America", "All Saints of Mount Athos", etc. The third Sunday after Pentecost may be observed for even more localised saints, such as "All Saints of St. Petersburg", or for saints of a particular type, such as "New Martyrs of the Turkish Yoke".

In addition to the Mondays mentioned above, Saturdays throughout the year are days for general commemoration of all saints, and special hymns to all saints are chanted from the Octoechos.


The celebration of 1 November in Lebanon as a holiday reflects the influence of Western Catholic orders present in Lebanon and is not Maronite in origin. The traditional Maronite feast equivalent to the honor of all saints in their liturgical calendar is one of three Sundays in preparation for Lent called the Sunday of the Righteous and the Just. The following Sunday is the Sunday of the Faithful Departed (similar to All Souls Day in Western calendar).

East Syriac tradition

In East Syriac tradition the All Saints Day celebration falls on the first Friday after resurrection Sunday.[10] This is because all departed faithful are saved by the blood of Jesus and they resurrected with the Christ. Normally in east Syriac liturgy the departed souls are remembered on Friday. Church celebrates All souls day on Friday before the beginning of Great lent or Great Fast.[27]...

In Western Europe, the Americas and the Philippines

The Christian holiday of All Saints' Day falls on 1 November, followed by All Souls' Day on 2 November, and is currently a Solemnity in the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, a Festival in the Lutheran Churches, as well as a Principal Feast of the Anglican Communion.


During the 5th century, St. Maximus of Turin preached annually on the Sunday after Pentecost, the same day being used in many places in the East, in honor of all martyrs in what is today Northern Italy. The Comes of Würzburg, the earliest existing ecclesiastical reading list, dating to the late 6th or early 7th century in what is today Germany, lists this the Sunday after Pentecost as "dominica in natale sanctorum" or "Sunday of the Nativity of the Saints". By this time, the commemoration had expanded to include all saints whether or not they were martyred.[23]

On 13 May 609 or 610, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs, ordering an anniversary;[22] the feast of the dedication Sanctae Mariae ad Martyres has been celebrated at Rome ever since. There is evidence that from the 5th to the 7th centuries there existed in certain places and at sporadic intervals a feast date on 13 May to celebrate the holy martyrs.[28] The origin of All Saints' Day cannot be traced with certainty, and it has been observed on various days in different places. However, there are some who maintain the belief that it has origins in the pagan observation of 13 May, the Feast of the Lemures, in which the malevolent and restless spirits of the dead were propitiated. Some liturgiologists base the idea that this Lemuria festival was the origin of that of All Saints on their identical dates and on the similar theme of "all the dead".[29] Meanwhile, others consider that 13 May was perhaps deliberately chosen by the Pope because of its celebration already established in the East.[30]

The feast of All Saints, on its current date, is 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",[31] with the date moved to October 27 [O.S. November 1] and 13 May feast suppressed.[32] During the late 8th century, lay religious scholar Alcuin of York used his influence with Charlemagne to introduce the Irish-Northumbrian celebration of the Feast of All Saints to the Frankish Kingdom.[33] In 798, Archbishop Arno of Salzburg called for a festival of all saints on October 27 [O.S. November 1] for Southeast Germany, for which he was subsequently commended by Alucin.[23]

The October 27 [O.S. November 1] All Saints Day 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",[31] which confirmed its celebration on October 27 [O.S. November 1]. Under the rule of Charlemagne and his successors, the Frankish Kingdom expanded into the Carolingian Empire and subsequently the Holy Roman Empire.

The 9th century Félire Óengusso ("Martyrology of Óengus") by Óengus of Tallaght attests a April 15 [O.S. April 20] celebration in Rome for all the saints of Europe as well as a 1 November celebration in Ireland for all saints.[23] Sicard of Cremona, a scholar who lived in the 12th and 13th centuries, proposed that Pope Gregory VII (1073–85) suppressed the feast of May 13 in favor of October 27 [O.S. November 1]. By the 12th century, May 13 had been removed from liturgical books.[23]

The All Saints octave was added by Pope Sixtus IV (1471–1484).[31] Both the All Saints vigil and the octave were suppressed by the reforms of 1955.[23]

Proposed connection to Samhain

Some scholars have proposed that churches in the British Isles began celebrating All Saints on 1 November at the beginning of the 8th century to coincide with or replace the Celtic festival of Samhain. James Frazer represents this school of thought by arguing that 1 November was chosen because Samhain was the date of the Celtic festival of the dead.[34][35][36] Ronald Hutton argues instead that the earliest documentary sources indicate that Samhain was a harvest festival with no particular ritual connections to the dead. Hutton proposes that that 1 November was a Frankish and Germanic rather than a Celtic cultural referent.[37]

Protestant observances

The festival was retained after the Reformation in the calendar of the Anglican Church and in many Lutheran churches.[31] 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 Saturday between 31 October and 6 November. In many Lutheran Churches, it is moved to the first Sunday of November. In the Church of England, mother church of the Anglican Communion, it is a Principal Feast and may be celebrated either on 1 November or on the Sunday between 30 October and 5 November. It is also celebrated by other Protestants of the English tradition, such as the United Church of Canada, the Methodist churches and the Wesleyan Church.

Protestants generally commemorate all Christians, living and deceased, on All Saints' Day; if they observe All Saints Day at all, they use it to remember all Christians both past and present. In the United Methodist Church, All Saints' Day is celebrated on the first Sunday in November. It is held, not only to remember Saints, but also to remember all those who have died who were members of the local church congregation. In some congregations, a candle is lit by the Acolyte as each person's name is called out by the clergy. Prayers and responsive readings may accompany the event. Often, the names of those who have died in the past year are affixed to a memorial plaque.

In many Lutheran churches, All Saints' Day is celebrated the Sunday after Reformation is celebrated (the date for Reformation is 31 October, so Reformation Sunday is celebrated on or before 31 October). In most congregations, the festival is marked as an occasion to remember the dead. The names of those who have died from the congregation within the last year are read during worship and a bell is tolled, a chime is played or a candle is lit for each name read. While the dead are solemnly remembered during worship on All Saints' Sunday, the festival is ultimately a celebration of Christ's victory over death.

In English-speaking countries, services often include the singing of the traditional hymn "For All the Saints" by Walsham How. The most familiar tune for this hymn is Sine Nomine by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Other hymns that are popularly sung during corporate worship on this day are "I Sing a Song of the Saints of God" and "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones".




In France, and throughout the Francophone world, the day is known as La Toussaint. Flowers (especially in Chrysanthemums), or wreaths called 'couronnes de toussaints' are placed at each tomb or grave. The following day, 2 November (All Souls' Day) is called Le jour des morts, the Day of the Dead.[15]


In Belgium, "Toussaint" is a public holiday. Belgians visit the cemeteries to place chrysanthemums on the graves of deceased relatives on All Saints Day, since All Souls is not a holiday.[14]


In Portugal, Dia de Todos os Santos is a national holiday. Families remember their dead with religious observances and visits to the cemetery. Portuguese children celebrate the Pão-por-Deus tradition (also called santorinho, bolinho or fiéis de Deus) going door-to-door, where they receive cakes, nuts, pomegranates, sweets and candies.[16]


In Spain, el Día de Todos los Santos is a national holiday. The play Don Juan Tenorio is traditionally performed.[38]

Austria and Bavaria

In Austria and Bavaria it is customary on All Saints' Day for godfathers to give their godchildren Allerheiligenstriezel, a braided yeast pastry.[39]

The Americas

In Argentina, Brasil, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and the state of Louisiana, people take flowers to the graves of dead relatives.

Day of the Dead

All Saints' Day in Mexico coincides with the first day of the Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos) celebration. It commemorates children who have died (Dia de los Inocentes) and the second day celebrates all deceased adults.[40]


In Guatemala, All Saints' Day is a national holiday. On that day Guatemalans make a special meal called fiambre which is made of cold meats and vegetables; it is customary to visit cemeteries and to leave some of the fiambre for their dead. It is also customary to fly kites to help unite the dead with the living. There are festivals in towns like Santiago Sacatepéquez and Sumpango, where giant colorful kites are flown.[20]


In the United States and Canada, Halloween is celebrated in connection with All Saints' Day,[41] although celebrations are generally limited to 31 October. During the 20th century the observance largely became a secular one, although some Christian groups have continued to embrace the Christian origins of the holiday whereas others (typically Protestant groups) have rejected celebrations.[42][43] On Halloween night, children dress in costumes and go door to door asking for candy in a practice known as trick-or-treating,[44] while adults may host costume parties. There are many popular customs associated with Halloween, including carving a pumpkin into a Jack-o'-lantern and apple bobbing.[45] Halloween is not a public holiday in either the United States or Canada.


Hallow-mas in the Philippines is variously called "Undás", "Todos los Santos" (Spanish, "All Saints"), and sometimes "Araw ng mga Patay / Yumao" (Tagalog, "Day of the dead / those who have passed away"), which incorporates All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. Filipinos traditionally observe this day by visiting the family dead to clean and repair their tombs. Offerings of prayers, flowers, candles,[21] and food. Chinese Filipinos additionally burn incense and kim. Many also spend the day and ensuing night holding reunions at the cemetery with feasts and merriment.

Pangangaluluwa trick-or-treat traditions

Though Halloween has usually been seen as an American influence in the Philippines, the country's trick-or-treat traditions during Undas (from the Spanish "Honras", meaning honours, as in "with honors") are actually much older. This tradition was derived from the pre-colonial tradition called pangangaluwa. Pangangaluluwa (from "kaluluwa" or spirit double) was a practice of early Filipinos who sang from house to house swathed in blankets pretending to be ghosts of ancestors. If the owner of the house failed to give biko or rice cakes to the "nangangaluluwa", the "spirits" would play tricks (try to steal slippers or other objects left outside the house by members of the family or run off with the owner's chickens). Pangangaluluwa practices are still seen in rural areas.

Cemetery and reunion practices

During Undas, family members visit the cemetery where the body of the loved ones rest. It is believed that by going to the cemetery and offering food, candles, flowers, and sometimes incense sticks, the spirit of the loved one is remembered and appeased. Contrary to common belief, this visitation practice is not an imported tradition. Prior to the establishment of coffins, pre-colonial Filipinos were already practicing such a tradition of visiting burial caves throughout the archipelago as confirmed by a research conducted by the University of the Philippines. The tradition of "atang" or "hain" is also practiced, where food and other offerings are placed near the grave site. If the family cannot go to the grave site, a specific area in the house is provided for the offering.

The exact date of Undas today, 1 November, is not a pre-colonial observance date but an influence from Mexico, where the same day is known as the Day of the Dead. Pre-colonial Filipinos preferred going to the burial caves of the departed occasionally as they believed that aswang (half-vampire half-werewolf beings) would take the corpse of the dead if the body was not properly guarded. The protection of the body of the loved one is called "paglalamay". However, in some communities, this paglalamay tradition is non-existent and is replaced by other pre-colonial traditions unique to each community.

The Undas is also seen as a family reunion, where family members coming from various regions go back to their hometown to visit the grave of loved ones. Family members are expected to remain beside the grave for the entire day and socialize with each other to mend bonds and enhance family relations. In some cases, family members going to certain burial sites exceed one hundred people. Fighting in any form is prohibited during Undas.

Roles of children

Children have important roles during Undas. Children are allowed to play with melted candles in front of grave sites and turn the melted wax from the candles into round wax balls. The round balls of wax symbolize the affirmation that everything goes back to where it began, as the living will go back to ash, where everything started. In some cases, families also light candles at the front door of the home. The number of candles is equivalent to the number of departed loved ones. It is believed that this tradition aids departed loved ones and provide them with a happy path to the afterlife.[46][47][48]

See also


  1. Marty, Martin E. (2007). Lutheran questions, Lutheran answers: exploring Christian faith. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress. p. 127. ISBN 978-0806653501. Retrieved 2 November 2011. All Lutherans celebrate All Saints Day, and many sing, 'For all the saints, who from their labors rest...'
  2. Willimon, William H. (2007). United Methodist Beliefs. Westminster John Knox Press. p. 64. ISBN 978-1611640618. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  3. "Shakespearian Glossary". Archived from the original on 23 April 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2014.
  4. The Shakespeare Name Dictionary. Routledge. 2004. ISBN 978-1135875718. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  5. The Anglican Service Book. Good Shepherd Press. 1 September 1991. p. 677. ISBN 978-0962995507. Retrieved 3 November 2012.
  6. St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco. "Homily on the Feast of All Saints of Russia". St. John Chrysostom Orthodox Church.
  7. Roman Missal
  8. "Celebrations and Observances of the Church Year". Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  9. Sidhu, Salatiel; Baldovin, John Francis (5 February 2013). Holidays and Rituals of Jews and Christians. p. 193. ISBN 978-1481711401. Lutheran and Orthodox Churches who do not call themselves Roman Catholic Churches have maintained the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church, still celebrate this Day. Even the Protestant Churches like the United Methodist Church all celebrate this day as the All Souls Day and call it All Saints day.
  10. "Syro Malabar Liturgical Calendar 2016" (PDF).
  11. Leslie, Frank (1895). Frank Leslie's Popular Monthly. Allhallowtide. Frank Leslie Publishing House. p. 539. Retrieved 9 April 2014. Just as the term "Eastertide" expresses for us the whole of the church services and ancient customs attached to the festival of Easter, from Palm Sunday until Easter Monday, so does All-hallowtide include for us all the various customs, obsolete and still observed, of Halloween, All Saints' and All Souls' Days. From the 31st of October until the morning of the 3rd of November, this period of three days, known as All-hallowtide, is full of traditional and legendary lore.
  12. "All Saints' Tide". Services and Prayers for the Season from All Saints to Candlemas. General Synod of the Church of England. For many twentieth-century Christians the All Saints-tide period is extended to include Remembrance Sunday. In the Calendar and Lectionary we have sought to make it easier to observe this without cutting across a developing lectionary pattern, and we have reprinted the form of service approved ecumenically for use on that day.
  13. Hatch, Jane M. (1978). The American Book of Days. Wilson. p. 979. ISBN 978-0824205935.
  14. "All Saints' Day honors the deceased", USAG Benelux Public Affairs, November 1, 2017
  15. "The Flower of Death", Couleur Nature, Paris, 25 July 2011
  16. "National holiday: November 1st is All Saints Day – Portugal", Portuguese American Journal, 1 November 2011
  17. Williams, Victoria (2016). Celebrating Life Customs around the World. ABC-CLIO. p. 979.
  18. Guillain, Charlotte (2014). Portugal. Capstone.
  19. Iovino, Joe (28 October 2015). "All Saints Day: A holy day John Wesley loved". The United Methodist Church. Retrieved 20 October 2016.
  20. Mijangos, Nelo. "All Saints Day in Guatemala", Revue, 2 November 2012
  21. "All Saints Day around the world", Guardian Weekly, 1 November 2010
  22. Mershman, Francis (1907). "All Saints' Day". The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved 30 October 2014.
  23. New Catholic Encyclopedia (Second ed.). 2003. pp. 288–290. ISBN 0-7876-4004-2.
  24. Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints. Church Publishing, Inc. 2010. p. 662. ISBN 978-0898696783.
  25. The date in Vita Euthymii, not printed until 1888 "makes it seem practically (though not absolutely) certain that she died on 10 Nov. 893".(Downey 1956, pp. 301–305)
  26. Downey 1956, pp. 301–305.
  27. ""Commemoration of the Departed Faithful"". Nasrani Foundation.
  28. C. Smith The New Catholic Encyclopedia 1967: s.v. "Feast of All Saints", p. 318.
  29. For example, Violet Alford ("The Cat Saint", Folklore 52.3 [September 1941:161–183] p. 181 note 56) observes that "Saints were often confounded with the Lares or Dead. Repasts for both were prepared in early Christian times, and All Saints' Day was transferred in 835 to November 1st from one of the days in May which were the old Lemuralia"; Alford notes Pierre Saintyves, Les saints successeurs des dieux, Paris 1906 (sic, i.e. 1907).
  30. Saunders, William. "All Saints and All Souls". Retrieved 18 September 2016.
  31. Chisholm 1911.
  32. "All Saints' Day", The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd edition, ed. E. A. Livingstone (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 41–42; The New Catholic Encyclopedia, eo.loc.
  33. New Catholic Encyclopedia (Second ed.). 2003. pp. 242–243. ISBN 0-7876-4004-2.
  34. Pseudo-Bede, Homiliae subdititiae; John Hennig, 'The Meaning of All the Saints', Mediaeval Studies 10 (1948), 147–61.
  35. "All Saints Day", The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 3rd edition, ed. E. A. Livingstone (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), 41–42; The New Catholic Encyclopedia, eo.loc.
  36. Hennig, John (1946). "A Feast of All the Saints of Europe". Speculum. 21 (1): 49–66. JSTOR 2856837.
  37. Hutton, Ronald (1996). Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. New York: Oxford Paperbacks. ISBN 0192854488.
  38. "All Saints' Day in Spain", Estudio Sampere
  39. Berger, Corinna. "Your Vienna Guide of All Saints' Day", Metropole, 31 October 2017
  40. Trebe, Patricia. "Mexican-Americans to celebrate Day of the Dead", Chicago Tribune, 30 October 2015
  41. "NEDCO Producers' Guide". 31–33. Northeast Dairy Cooperative Federation. 1973. Originally celebrated as the night before All Saints' Day, Christians chose November first to honor their many saints. The night before was called All Saints' Eve or hallowed eve meaning holy evening. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  42. Halloween: What's a Christian to Do? (1998) by Steve Russo.
  43. Gyles Brandreth, "The Devil is gaining ground" The Sunday Telegraph (London), 11 March 2000.
  44. "Halloween". Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on 30 October 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2012.
  45. Paul Fieldhouse (17 April 2017). Food, Feasts, and Faith: An Encyclopedia of Food Culture in World Religions. ABC-CLIO. p. 256. ISBN 9781610694124.
  47. Cruz, Elfren S. (31 October 2013). "Undas in Filipino culture". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 17 February 2018.
  48. Miaco, Mimi (29 October 2015). "10 Things Pinoys Do During Undas". Spot. Retrieved 6 December 2018.

Further reading

  • Langgärtner, Georg. "All Saints' Day". In The Encyclopedia of Christianity, edited by Erwin Fahlbusch and Geoffrey William Bromiley, 41. Vol. 1. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1999. ISBN 0802824137.
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