line_gbg68.gif (1697 bytes)

Autumn - Autunno - Jesen
Customs and Traditions
line_gbg68.gif (1697 bytes)

 

All Saints' Day

All Saints' Day, celebrated on November 1, is a feast of the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, and day on which churches glorify God for all God's saints, known and unknown and, according to Urban IV, to supply any deficiencies in the faithful's celebration of saints' feasts during the year.

Its origin lies earlier in the common commemorations of martyrs who died in groups or whose names were unknown, which were held on various days in different parts of the Church; over time these celebrations came to include not only the martyrs but all saints.

In the early days the Christians were accustomed to solemnize the anniversary of a martyr's death for Christ at the place of martyrdom. In the fourth century, neighbouring dioceses began to interchange feasts, to transfer relics, to divide them, and to join in a common feast; as is shown by the invitation of St. Basil of Caesarea (397) to the bishops of the province of Pontus. Frequently groups of martyrs suffered on the same day, which naturally led to a joint commemoration. In the persecution of Diocletian the number of martyrs became so great that a separate day could not be assigned to each. But the Church, feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a common day for all. The first trace of this we find in Antioch on the Sunday after Pentecost. We also find mention of a common day in a sermon of St. Ephrem the Syrian (373), and in the 74th homily of St. John Chrysostom (407). At first only martyrs and St. John the Baptist were honoured by a special day. Other saints were added gradually, and increased in number when a regular process of canonization was established; still, as early as 411 there is in the Chaldean Calendar a "Commemoratio Confessorum" for the Friday after Easter. In the West Boniface IV, 13 May, 609, or 610, consecrated the Pantheon in Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs, ordering an anniversary. Gregory III (731-741) consecrated a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter to all the saints and fixed the anniversary for 1 November. A basilica of the Apostles already existed in Rome, and its dedication was annually remembered on 1 May. In 837, Gregory IV (827-844) extended the celebration on 1 November to the entire Church. The vigil seems to have been held as early as the feast itself. The octave was added by Sixtus IV (1471-84).

During the Reformation the Protestant churches understood “saints” in its New Testament usage as including all believers and reinterpreted the feast of All Saints as a celebration of the unity of the entire Church. In medieval England the festival was known as All Hallows (hallow = saint), hence the name Halloween [=All Hallows' eve] for the preceding evening, October 31.

Halloween

Halloween is observed with traditional games and customs. While the word comes from medieval England's All Hallows' eve,  many of these customs predate Christianity, going back to Celtic practices associated with Nov. 1—the beginning of winter and the Celtic new year. Witches and other evil spirits were believed to roam the earth on this evening, playing tricks on human beings to mark the season of diminishing sunlight. Bonfires were lit, offerings were made of dainty foods and sweets, and people would disguise themselves as one of the roaming spirits, to avoid demonic persecution. Survivals of these early practices can be found in countries of Celtic influence today, such as the United States where children go from door to door in costumes demanding “trick or treat.”

See N. Rogers, Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night (2002), D. J. Skal, Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween (2002).

Sources:

  • Text - http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01315a.htm
  • Image - http://www.catholicgreetings.org/Create.asp?card=767
  • The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2005, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Main Menu


This page compliments of Marisa Ciceran

Created: Tuesday, October 18, 2005; Last updated, Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Copyright © 1998 IstriaNet.org, USA