All Saints’ Day is a special feast day on which Catholics and some Protestant denominations celebrate all the saints, both known and unknown. Protestants regard all Christians as saints. Given this, it is also a time that many Christians recognize loved ones that have died in the past year. All Saints’ Day is celebrated every year on November 1, and on the first Sunday in Pentecost in Eastern Orthodox churches.
You may be wondering why All Saints' Day is such an important day in the lives of some Christians. While most saints have a particular feast day on the Catholic calendar, not all of those feast days are observed. Then there are those saints who haven’t been canonized – those who are in Heaven, but whose sainthood is known only to God. These saints have no particular feast day.
The celebration arose out of the Christian tradition of celebrating the martyrdom of saints on the anniversary of their martyrdom. When martyrdoms increased during the persecutions of the late Roman Empire, local dioceses instituted a common feast day in order to ensure that all martyrs, known and unknown, were properly honored.
In English, the traditional name for All Saints’ Day was All Hallows Day. The vigil or eve of the feast, October 31, is still commonly known as All Hallows Eve, or Halloween. Despite concerns some Christians, including Catholics, in recent years about the pagan origins of Halloween, the vigil was celebrated from the beginning – long before Irish practices, stripped of their pagan origins, were incorporated into popular celebrations of the feast.
There are a number of ways that Catholics and some other Protestant denominations celebrate All Saints’ Day. Most Catholics go to Mass. There are also many congregations that read aloud the names of those who have died in the last year in remembrance of them. In addition, many people will leave flowers or light candles for friends and loved ones that have passed away. There are others that you may not know about that you may want to consider if you want to honor the saints.
Some Christians throw an All Saints' Day party. If your church doesn’t already sponsor an All Saints’ Day party consider organizing one. A great way to do this is by organizing a potluck. Better yet, make your party a saints-themed potluck to amp up the fun and interest. Invite families and friends to share a dish or treat related to their favorite saint. This might be a food that is traditionally eaten on the saints’ feast day, or a food that somehow evokes the spirit of the saint.
Another thing that some Christians do is create and share Saint-themed meals. You can attach holy cards to bowls of food, such as a St. Francis holy card (the Patron Saint of animals) on a bowl of animal crackers. You might also make Irish soda bread for one of the Irish Saints. Another idea is serving “saintly halos” which can be served as onion or pineapple rings. This is also a great way for children and party guests to learn more about each saint and the celebration.
There are also Christians who host an All Saints’ Trunk-or-Treat. This is another great event that can be hosted at your church, your neighborhood or community. Each car trunk will become a place where kids can pick up treats, play games and learn about a Saint.
If you have kids, you can have a lot of fun honoring the saints. Have your children dress up as their favorite Saint. Having your children dress up as Saints is a great witness. It is also a super fun way to teach your children about the Saints. You can get really creative with this. Some great ideas include patron saints and angels. For the patron saint costumes, make a connection between your child’s costume and the traditional patronage of the saints. Does your child want to dress up as a juggler or an actor? There’s a patron saint for that! Whether you select or create the right costume, your kids will be easily convinced that their outfit is fun. It’s really all in presentation and attitude.
If you want to get festive, carve a pumpkin with Christian symbols. What many Christians forget is that they have an incredible opportunity to evangelize around Halloween. A soft way to evangelize your trick-or-treaters is by carving a Christian symbol in your pumpkin instead of a ghoul, toothy grinned or spooky face. There are tons of creative pumpkin Christian pumpkin themes, from angel carvings to Bible verses. You can even carve a goofy face on one side and your favorite Bible verse on the other. There are some really great online resources to help you light up the night reflecting your faith.
A great way to celebrate All Saints’ Day is with All Saints’ decorations. For the feast day, you can make a centerpiece for your home. One way to do this is by arranging beautiful colored branches on a table or in a jar, and hang saint medals on the branches. This will be a beauty for the whole family to see. The kids will also enjoy playing a few games of “I Spy” as they search through the medals hanging on the branches to find a special saint. Through this, you bring a little of God’s artistry inside.
You can also do reverse trick-or-treating. This is a positive way to witness to those who are often in need of some TLC. Having your child visit a shut-in from your church or in a nursing home is a great way for your child to brighten up another soul. You can dress your children in costumes and serve those who are often forgotten.
Finally a great way to teach your children about the saints is through story. This is also a great way for adults to refresh their knowledge on particular saints. One great resource is the “Once Upon a Time Saints” series. Make sure it’s a book or series that the whole family can participate in.
All Saints’ Day is a time to remember and pray for those who have died. The important thing for those who celebrate All Saints’ Day is that the activities or events they complete honor those who have passed away. It is also a time to focus on Christ’s victory over death. We are confronted with the reality of death, but we recognize the hope of Jesus’ resurrection.