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Significance of All Saints’ Day

All Saints’ Day is also called Feast of All Saints, Hallowmas, or All Hallows’ Day in the Christian Church. It is a day that commemorates both known and unknown saints who have acquired heaven. The Eastern Churches celebrate the day on the first Sunday after Pentecost. On the other hand, the Western Church observes the day on November 1 every year. Readers should not confuse the day with All Souls’ Day that falls on November 2. The day remembers all those people who have passed away but yet to attain heaven.

Background of All Saints’ Day

There was a time when many Roman Emperors persecuted Christians, thus leading to the death of several martyrs. It was also an era when the Church kept aside several days for honoring these martyrs. Pope Boniface IV formally started the celebration of All Saints’ Day in the seventh century in honor of all the saints at the same time. 

Initially, Christians celebrated the day on May 13. However, Pope Gregory III moved the tradition of celebrating All Saints’ Day on November 1 every year when he was in office from 731 to 741 AD. He allocated a chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica in memory of all the saints.

A Holy Obligation

The day reveres people whom God knows as saints. However, Catholic observances usually concentrate on known saints whom the Catholic Church canonized. The celebration started with the custom of celebrating the martyrdom of saints on their martyrdom anniversary.

It is a Catholic Holy Day of Obligation, which means all Catholics should attend Mass on the day and involve themselves in Prayers. However, if they have a genuine reason, such as a severe illness, they can skip the Mass. For Catholics, the day honors all those people who have moved on to the Kingdom of Heaven. The occasion relates to expressing earnest gratitude for the lives and deaths of all saints. It remembers all those Christian Saints who are famous and also those who are relatively unknown. Several Protestant sects observed All Saints’ Day after the Protestant Reformation.

Celebrations around the World

All Saints’ Day is not a public holiday in America. However, in Germany and France, businesses are closed, and the workday is off. Church services are held on November 1 to honor all the saints in France. The focus shifts to the dead by the evening.

In Mexico, Portugal, and Spain, people make offerings on this day. People in Italy, Hungary, and Belgium put flowers on the graves of their dead relatives. Romanians, Polish, Croatians, and Austrians follow the tradition of lighting candles on the graves of their deceased relatives.

In the Philippines, the day is called “Undas” and is not just for remembering the saints. It is also for paying homage to and honoring departed dear ones, usually with good offerings, flowers, and prayers.

Apart from weekly worship gatherings, the day reminds us annually of our connectedness as Christians. Incidentally, it is not a group of religious leaders who grants sainthood. Instead, God, Himself gives the sainthood status to any salt-of-the-earth individual who trusts Jesus Christ.

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