After the revelry and fun of Halloween comes two days of honouring the dead – All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.
All Saints’ Day on 1st November is also known as the Feast of All Saints. It is celebrated by the Roman Catholic Church as well as by some Protestant Christian denominations. It provides a chance to offer thanks for the work and witness of all saints and martyrs whose lives were dedicated to their faith and its outworkings. This includes not just those ‘famous’ saints whose names we know but also those that are not recognised or specially celebrated, such as the individuals who have personally guided an individual in their faith, such as one’s relative, friend, or minister.
Another aspect of All Saints’ Day is that it is a reminder of the connectedness of Christians, across time and geography.
For Roman Catholics, All Saints’ Day is a Holy Day of Obligation, when they are expected to attend Mass. Bishops in some countries waive this requirement if the holiday does not fall on a Sunday.
In church, All Saints’ Day is typically observed with a reading of the Beatitudes – the eight blessings recounted in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount which begin “Blessed are the…..”.
Some observe All Saints’ Day by leaving flowers and candles on the graves of their dead relatives. Others light candles at church in remembrance. Others would leave these actions until the next day – All Souls’ Day.
All Souls’ Day, on 2nd November, is a day when the dead are remembered and prayers are offered on their behalf. A 7/8th century AD prayer ‘The Office of the Dead’ is often read out in churches. Other rituals include the offering of Requiem Mass for the dead, visiting family graves and reflecting on lost loved ones. In Mexico, on El dia de los muertos (Day of the Dead), people take picnics to their family graves and leave food out for their dead relatives.
On both days, Christians are encouraged to remember the saints, and those who have set good examples, and to allow the testimony of those people’s faith spur them on in their faith and life.
Image by Gerd Altmann (from Pixabay)