All Saints' Day

Updated on December 18, 2017
Anna Watson profile image

Anna is a pastor, writer, and theologian who obtained her BA in religion in '06, Diploma of Ministry in '16, and Diploma of Divinity in '17.

A brief history

Today is All Saints’ Day, the much less famous holiday to the more popular Halloween, yet it’s the most important of the two days. If you’re a Catholic it is likely that you’ll attend mass today, if you’re Protestant, you’ll probably honor the day on Sunday the 5th. The official inception of this holy day was in 609 AD by Pope Boniface IV who had originally dedicated the 13th of May to the consecration of the Pantheon at Rome to the Virgin Mary and all the martyrs of the church. However, by the eighth century, Pope Gregory III had moved the date to November 1st. In all likelihood, he made the move to coincide with the with Celtic festival of Samhain, which was also celebrated this time of year. In 835 Louis the Pious decreed All Saints’ Day to be a Holy Day of Obligation, a practice which continued by devout Catholics to this day.

Originally All Saints’ Day was meant to honor all the martyrs of the church, but over time it expanded include the saints as well. The day was traditionally celebrated in the middle of a three day feast which marked All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day. All Saints’ Day was to commemorate the martyrs of the church, while All Souls’ Day is set aside to pray for the purification of the dead in purgatory that they may ascend to heaven. All Souls' Day continues to be celebrated on November 2nd by Catholics.

Catholics celebrate the communion of saints, who through the blood of Christ and their own good deeds have earned them a place in heaven.

Catholic observations

As mentioned above, Catholics view All Saints’ Day as a Holy Day of Obligation, and unless they are ill, they’re expected to attend mass. Catholics celebrate the communion of saints, who through the blood of Christ and their own good deeds have earned them a place in heaven. In the Catholic tradition, most saints have a feast day, but it’s not always observed. Catholics also recognize that there are some saints known only to God. All Saints’ Day is a chance for Catholics to cover those bases and celebrate all the saints; both known and unknown, and with or without their own feast day. Priests will read the Beatitudes from Christ’s famous Sermon on the Mount, and many Catholics will spend a little extra time after mass to thank God for all the unnamed saints.

Martin Luther, who nailed the 95 Thesis to the door of the church in Wittenberg in 1517 and accidentally set the Protestant reformation in motion, believed that Christians should honor, but not worship, the saints.

Protestant observations

After the Reformation (which celebrated its 500th anniversary yesterday), most Protestant denominations retained the tradition of this holy day. However, since Protestants don’t believe in purgatory, they no longer have a need for All Souls’ Day. Martin Luther, who nailed the 95 Thesis to the door of the church in Wittenberg in 1517 and accidentally set the Protestant reformation in motion, believed that Christians should honor, but not worship, the saints. The Lutherans regard All Saints’ Day as an important festival in which we can be enlightened by the heroes of the Bible. It’s a time to remember the holy Christians from ancient times as well as the more recent saints who may have departed. The holiday is a good reminder to all Christians that we all can be made saints in the eyes of God by the redeeming blood of Christ.

Luther’s observations were shared by John Wesley, theologian and Anglican cleric, and founder of the Methodist church. In 1767 Wesley wrote in his journal that this was “a festival I truly love.” He enjoyed both the celebration and giving thanks to God for the lives and deaths of all the saints. The whole body of the church, both living and dead, are celebrated on All Saints’ Day. Because of what Paul wrote in Hebrews 12 that “…we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses” Methodists do have regard for saints, but they believe that only Christ can be the mediator between God and Man. Methodists believe in saints as people who have lived exemplary Christian lives, but they have no system of naming saints as the Catholics do. For the Methodist, a saint can be any righteous Christian, living or dead. November 1st is a day to give thanks for their work, although, as with the Lutherans, the day is usually celebrated with a special service on the first Sunday of November, regardless of what calendar day it falls on. Methodists and Lutherans both make it a point in the All Saints’ service to honor the memory of church members who have died in the past year. Many Christians who recognize All Saints’ Day, regardless of denomination, will leave candles or flowers on the graves of deceased relatives.

Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, and a few of the other evangelical denominations usually don’t celebrate All Saints' Day. Although the trend within those churches seems to be turning more and more towards an observance of the holy day. As mainline Protestants are beginning to separate the celebration from its Catholic roots, more are willing to see All Saints’ Day as a day to celebrate the triumph of Christ over death. They’re beginning to see the value of a day set aside to honor all the saints who were redeemed in Christ. However, while many Protestants are beginning to celebrate this as a day of observance, many more still do not recognize it as an official church sponsored holiday.

Whether your tradition recognizes today as a day of remembrance and thanks to all the saints, both living and dead, or if it’s just a day to buy discounted Halloween candy, I hope that you will all pause for a moment to thank God for his redeeming grace.


We bless your holy name, O God, for all your servants who, having finished their course, now rest from their labors. Give us grace to follow their example of their steadfastness and faithfulness, to your honor and glory; through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Methodists do regard saints, but they believe that only Christ can be the mediator between God and Man. Methodists believe in saints as people who have lived exemplary Christian lives, but they have no system of naming saints as the Catholics do.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Anna Watson

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • Bede le Venerable profile image

        Bede 

        8 months ago from Minnesota

        I think you could do a superb job Anna, because you seem to understand both the Protestant and Catholic angles. I say "go for it!"

        There are some interesting facts about All Soul’s Day- priests say three Masses and used to wear all black vestments (some still do). You may not have this book in your bible, 2 Maccabees 12:44-45, but it helps to understand why Catholics have Masses, etc.

      • Anna Watson profile imageAUTHOR

        Anna Watson 

        8 months ago from Atlanta, GA

        Funny you should say that, Bede, it had occurred to me to write about All Soul's Day, but I thought that might be best left in the hands of a Catholic. I feel I would do a poor job of it. :)

      • Bede le Venerable profile image

        Bede 

        8 months ago from Minnesota

        Yes, I should have qualified my statement to refer to the official Lutheran stance, and not your own view. Actually, I was edified that you have a very open presentation here. Maybe you are not aware, but the day following All Saints is All Souls Day. Catholics remember all the faithful departed on that day, who may need some extra purification before the eternal vision of God: (i.e. purgatory). Your next assignment is to write on All Souls Day! :)

      • Anna Watson profile imageAUTHOR

        Anna Watson 

        8 months ago from Atlanta, GA

        Hi Bede,

        That line about honoring, but not worshipping, the saints was taken from official Lutheran and Methodism stance on saints. I didn't mean to imply that Catholics worshipped them. I'm sorry that it came across that way.

        Thank you for your feedback!

      • Bede le Venerable profile image

        Bede 

        8 months ago from Minnesota

        Anna, nice job on this article. As a Catholic, I can attest that the feast of All Saints is encouraging. According to the Roman Martyrology, there are about 10,000 officially recognized saints. But, All Saints honors that “multitude that no man could number.” Rev. 7:9. One small clarification that I suggest is that Catholics don’t worship the saints nor Mary; rather they show them honor. Worship is given to God (latria), to the saints is given honor (dulia) and to Mary, great honor ( hyperdulia).

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)