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All Saint's Day.

by Catherine Fournier

All Saint's Day
Commemoration of All Holy Martyrs and all the apostles, confessors, and all the just and perfect servants of God whose bodies rest throughout the whole world.
All Hallow's Day
Feast Day: November 1

This feast dates back to the 7th century, and is derived from a much earlier feast. In the early days of the church, the first Sunday after Pentecost was celebrated as the Commemoration of All Holy Martyrs, a celebration that would have seemed both necessary and immediately relevant, given the circumstances of the early Church.

By the seventh and eighth century, two circumstances combined to change first the scope and then the date of the celebration. First, the Emperor Phocas gave the ancient Pantheon at Rome to Pope Boniface IV, who then converted it into a church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin and all the saints. The work was completed in about the year 608. The feast of this dedication was on May 13, slightly later than its original date which fell nearer the beginning of the month. In about the year 731, Pope Gregory III consecrated a chapel in Saint Peter's Church to all the saint's and from that date, the Feast of All Saint's has been celebrated.

Pope Gregory IV changed the date of the Feast again in the ninth century. The feast was a popular one, and in the spring, that is, at the end of the winter, there was not enough food left in Rome to feed the great number of pilgrims who came to Rome to celebrate. So, the Pope changed the date to that of November 1st, after the harvest. Pope Sixtus IV established the Feast of All Saint's as a holy day of obligation for the entire Latin Church.

The feast day commemorates and celebrates all the saints and martyrs who have no official feast day on the calendar, and who may only be known as saints to God and the angels.

Prayer:
God, you allow us to honour all Your Saints in one common festival. Through the prayers of so many intercessors grant us an abundance of Your merciful favours which we so greatly desire. Amen.

As such an old and popular feast, many cultures around the world developed special observances of the feast. The feast is used to honour family members who have died in the past year as well as the saints and martyrs. Traditional foods include dirge (soul) cakes, otherwise known as doughnuts, whose round ring shape symbolizes eternity. Apples are also popular foods on this day, and apple dishes are common gifts on this day in some European countries.

In Mexico, altars are assembled in honour of the departed and decorated with flowers and sugar candy skulls, skeleton toys, candles, photographs, bread, chocolate and the favorite food and drink of the departed. Later, families go to the cemeteries and wash the tombstones and then decorate them. It is a family feast which commemorates the dead as it celebrates the living.

Hallowe'en, a corruption of All Hallows Eve, has nothing to do with All Saint's Day, even though it falls on the day before, and it has recently become the more common celebration.

For information about Hallowe'en and suggestion on how to celebrate it, please see Fridge Art: Hallowe'en, the holiday we love to hate.

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