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All Saints

This article is about the Christian holiday. For other meanings see All Saints (disambiguation)

The festival of All Saints, also sometimes known as "All Hallows," or "Hallowmas," is a feast celebrated in honour of all the saints and martyrs, known or unknown. The Roman Catholic holiday (Festum omnium sanctorum) falls on November 1, followed by All Souls Day on November 2 and is a festival of the first rank, with a vigil and an octave. The Eastern Orthodox Church's All Saints is the first Sunday after Pentecost and as such punctuates the close of the Easter season.

Common commemorations, by several churches, of the deaths of martyrs began to be celebrated in the 4th century. The first trace of a general celebration is in Antioch on the Sunday after Pentecost. This custom is also referred to in the 74th homily of John Chrysostom (407) and is maintained to the present day in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The origin of the festival of All Saints as celebrated in the West is, however, now said to be somewhat doubtful. On May 13 in 609 or 610 (the day being more important than the year), Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon at Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs, and 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. This connection has now been abandoned by Roman Catholics. 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 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.

There are celebrations in Portugal, Spain and Mexico, where are common the ofrendas (offerings). In Portugal and France, people would (and continue to) offer flowers to dead relatives. The traditional Portuguese Halloween, known as dia das bruxas (witches' day) is observed in the night of April 30 to May 1; it is not related with All Saints Day and is not widely celebrated. In Poland, the tradition on this day (known as Zaduszki) is to light candles (znicze ) and visit the graves of deceased relatives.

The festival was retained after the Reformation in the calendar of the Church of England and in that of many of the Lutheran churches. In the latter, in spite of attempts at revival, it has fallen into disuse. In the Lutheran churches, such as the Church of Sweden, it assumes a role of general commemoration of the dead (similar to the All Souls commemoration in the Eastern Orthodox Church that takes place two Saturdays before the beginning of Lent). In the Swedish calendar observance takes place on the first Saturday of November.


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Last updated: 06-02-2005 00:39:49
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