All Saints’ Day: What does it mean anyway? The holiday at a glance

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All Saints Day is a holiday
All Saints Day is on November 1, so it falls on a Tuesday in 2022. In Austria, All Saints’ Day is considered a public holiday. It has a high religious significance but is lived out to varying degrees.

All Saints Day MeaningWhat is All Saints’ Day, and why do we celebrate All Saints’ Day?
All Saints Day is a Catholic Solemnity and thus has special significance in the Catholic faith. The name suggests that it is about all the saints. This is precisely the reason for the day, which is always celebrated on November 1. All the saints are commemorated. At first sight, this sounds very simple, but All Saints’ Day has a vital peculiarity:

On All Saints’ Day, not only those who have been canonized should be remembered. Canonized means that we earthly people consider that person to be holy. Beyond that, however, there are people whose holiness we do not know. These people should be remembered on All Saints’ Day: Those about whose purity only God knows.

Since the 16th century, there have been lists of saints in which all the saints and blessed are listed. In 2004, there were a total of 6,650 saints blessed. So many that there cannot be a separate commemorative day or holiday for all of them, entirely disregarding the saints and blesses known only by God. After all, many Christians did a great service and were very inconspicuous. All Saints’ Day is the day these saints and blessed are commemorated.

There are some misconceptions about the holiday of All Saints’ Day in society nowadays due to the mixing of customs.

All Saints’ Day origins and history
Understanding that All Saints’ Day commemorates the saints begs the question of who those saints are in the first place. Let’s look a little further back in history from today.

All Saints’ Day has existed since the 4th century. At that time, however, in a completely different form than, for example, today on All Saints’ Day 2022. In the 4th century, the day was the Sunday after Pentecost. It was, therefore, not far from Easter, and specific references can be made to the motto of the Resurrection.

Later, in the 8th century, people celebrated November 1. This happened in Ireland because November marked the beginning of winter and the same time as the new year. Since then, the spread of November 1 began as the new All Saints’ Day, which is valid until today with All Saints’ Day 2022.

Taking a closer look, some symbols can be found in the historical day. Suppose one interprets the beginning of winter and the New Year in connection with the month of the dead, November. In that case, the reference to death again becomes clear: Saints are, in the broadest sense, considered a special connection between God and man.

Christians consider death to be the “separation of the soul from the body.” In this, too, many meanings of November 1 can be found in the context of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day or the customs of visiting the graves.

Interestingly, there are even different definitions of saints. If we follow the Psalms and the explanations commonly used nowadays, people are considered saints if they live out the faith powerfully. In the ecclesiastical context, they are often regarded as role models. Partly they are said to have experienced miracles.

Now the question also arises as to who determines this “status.” When we speak of the Church canonizing a person, Catholics mean recognizing a deceased person as a saint by the Pope.

Looking back further into the past, it becomes clear that even the Catholics decided who was holy and who was not. Only since the 10th century has this been done exclusively by the popes.

So, on All Saints’ Day, Catholics remember all the saints, including those who have not been canonized. After all, there may be saints about whom only God knows and who have not been canonized on our earth. Otherwise, no feast days and no souvenirs would belong to them. This is precisely why all these people are included. Now you surely understand exactly why the name of this day is composed of “All” and “Saints.”

All Saints Day customs
All Saints’ Day is a day of rest. Celebrations, dance events, and, for example, public sporting events are thus taboo. Again and again, the ban on dancing is also discussed on All Saints’ Day 2022. For the Church, All Saints’ Day is considered a Solemnity (the highest type of feast for Catholics, like Easter or Christmas) and, therefore, of particular significance. It is also extraordinary that spirituals appear in white robes—a symbol of purity.

In Catholic churches, there is a service to commemorate the saints. Customs vary depending on the region. Theoretically, there is a big difference between All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. Since these are often mixed nowadays, the customs can no longer be separated. Many people will likely combine the customs even on All Saints’ Day 2022. Let’s take a look at the most critical elements.

An essential element of All Souls’ Day, which takes place a day later on November 2, is the commemoration of the deceased. This includes visiting the graves. Although this is not to be settled until November 2 and belongs to All Souls’ Day, most people in Germany live this custom on All Saints’ Day. They prepare the grave, beautify it and commemorate the deceased.

This probably also has to do with All Saints’ Day 2022 being a holiday in some regions, while All Souls’ Day 2022 is a typical working day this year (Wednesday). This gives most people more peace on the holiday to remember the deceased, even if this is not the original idea.

Many customs of All Souls’ Day and All Saints’ Day coincide. The soul lights are also associated with the graveside service, commonly known as the placing of candles for the deceased. Flowers and twigs are added to this. Outside, the customs sound sad and connected with death, but joyous remembrance and prayer for the dead are expressed.

All Saints’ Day is for remembering the saints (and the “unknown” saints), and All Souls’ Day is for remembering the deceased. Nowadays, most people mix the customs so that grave decorating, lighting the soul lights, and praying for the dead occur on November 1.

Conclusion

The differences between All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are not so apparent nowadays; even the connection to Halloween is often questioned. What do the days have to do with each other, and what does that mean for All Saints’ Day 2022?

Let’s look at the dates first. Halloween takes place on October 31, All Saints’ Day on November 1, and All Souls’ Day on November 2. The three days follow directly after each other.

When you think of Halloween, the first thing you probably think of is creepy costumes and kids asking for candy at the front doors. How does that fit with the holiday of rest on November 1? Halloween stands for “All Hallows’ Eve.” Originally, people believed that all souls came back to earth on this day. Among them also the bad ones. To protect themselves from the hunt for souls by the bad guys, people dressed up in white robes to avoid being attacked. Nowadays, this takes on a whole different dimension with scary costumes.

All Saints’ Day stands the following day, November 1, for the remembrance of all the saints. Even those who have not been canonized and are thus unknown to us, but very much known to God, are meant.

All Souls’ Day is celebrated on November 2 and commemorates the deceased by visiting the grave and lighting soul lights (candles).

In theory, then, these are three separate and distinct days. In practice, however, all Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are mixed.

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