All Saints’ Day: Celebrating Our Heavenly Friends

By Monique Sammut | October 25, 2017
All Saints’ Day

The Feast of All Saints, or All Saints’ Day, commemorates all those who have died and are now in Heaven.  Generally, November 1, The Solemnity of All Saints, is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic Church.

The word “Saint” often refers to those men and women whom the Catholic Church has canonized.  When a person’s cause for canonization is first opened they are known as a Servant of God.  The title of Venerable is bestowed once evidence of heroic virtue is shown.  After one church-approved miracle attributed to the intercession of a venerable, that person is then beatified and becomes a Blessed.  The blessed is canonized after another miracle, and becomes a Saint.  Not all holy people are canonized and there are many saints in Heaven who are not officially recognized by the Church.

A Brief History

On May 13, 609, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon in Rome to Our Lady and the martyrs.  This was the formal start of the Feast of All Saints.  May 13 was the pagan Feast of the Lemures, during which rites would be performed to cleanse houses from wicked and restless spirits.  Tradition has it that the Catholic Church originally chose May 13 because of the connection with the souls of the dead and in order to replace a pagan holiday with a church-approved one.

In the mid-eighth century, Pope Gregory III officially established All Saints’ Day on November 1, as a day dedicated to the saints.  During the reign of King Louis the Pious, Charlemagne’s son, Pope Gregory IV declared the Feast of All Saints a Holy Day of Obligation.

All Hallows’ Eve

The day before All Saints’ Day is Halloween.  Is there a connection between these two celebrations?  Actually, there is but the religious origins of Halloween have largely been forgotten.  Halloween is derived from Hallows’ Eve or Hallowmas, which means The Eve of All Saints.  Vigils begin the night before Sundays and major feasts.  The modern term of Halloween was derived from a way of saying All Saints Eve – just as we say Christmas Eve.  In the later half of the nineteenth century, Halloween became known as a more secular holiday and began to develop into what it is today.

Making a Joyful Noise

There are several songs usually associated with All Saints’ Day.  For All the Saints was written by William Walsham How, an Anglican Bishop.  Oh When the Saints is a popular Christian children’s song that originated in the nineteenth century.  Singing these songs may be a fun and engaging way to involve and excite children and to remind them of the significance of this holy day.

Over the years, my siblings and I have memorized the U.S. Presidents, the 50 states, and the books of the Bible by placing lists of names to the tunes of different songs (e.g. singing the books of the Bible to the Ode to Joy).  After we heard it, one song we wanted to learn was The Saint Song created by The Saint Cast.  The names of many different saints are set to the popular tune of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Modern Major General.  The list is obviously minimal, but one children may find fascinating and want to learn!

It’s All Saints’ Day All Over the World

There are many different traditions world-wide for the celebration of All Saint’s Day.  Many of the traditions combine All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day blurring the distinction between the two.  All Saints’ Day commemorates those who have died and are now in Heaven.  All Souls’ Day remembers the souls of all who have died and those who may not yet be in Heaven.


In Mexico, All Saints’ Day falls on the same day as the Day of the Innocents, a day remembering children who have died.  All of the dead are remembered during the Day of the Dead holy days extending from October 31 until November 2.  Calaveras are edible skulls made out of sugar or chocolate commonly given as gifts or used as decoration pieces during these days.  Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras is a multicultural children’s book that delves into the origins of the calaveras in a simple and colorful way.

Europe and the Philippines

In Europe, people place flowers or candles on graves to serve as memorials.  In countries such as the Philippines, families repair and paint graves and then decorate them with flowers and/or candles.

United States

A popular All Saints’ Day tradition among Catholic families is having an All Saints Party.  A party such as this gives children the opportunity to dress up as their favorite saints.  Families come together for games, food, and fellowship.

The Mystical Body of Christ

The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ.  There are three different parts.

The Church Militant consists of those still on earth.  We are militant because we still struggle against the world and the temptations of the devil.

The Church Suffering refers to the souls in Purgatory.  They have completed their earthly journey but are not yet in Heaven.

The Church Triumphant consists of those already in Heaven.

The Communion of Saints is the name for the unity and cooperation between each of the three parts.

The Universal Call to Holiness

The lives of the saints are nothing but the gospel put into practice. – Saint Francis de Sales

Saints are sinners who kept going. – Robert Louis Stevenson

Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. – Oscar Wilde

November 1 is an excellent time for us all to remember the universal call to holiness.  We were all made to become saints!  The Saints were human too, ordinary men and women who loved God more than they loved themselves.  Throughout their daily lives they placed themselves at the service of God and others.  They passed through many trials, remained faithful, and as a result they now see God face-to-face.

Blessed are they who wash their robes so as to have the right to the tree of life and enter the city through its gates. – Revelation 22:14

We were made to spend all eternity with God in our Heavenly home.  Saint Augustine once said, You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.  Let us join the Saints in placing our trust in God.  We should draw near to the Saints, our heavenly friends, and ask for their intercession.  They know what it is to be human and to struggle.  However, unlike us, they also know what it is to conquer and enjoy life everlasting.

All you holy men and women, pray for us!