Monday, October 09, 2006

ALL SAINTS' DAY




All Saints Day is when the Church commemorates all saints, known and unknown. The eve of All Saints is known as All Hallows Eve, or Halloween. All Saints Day is November 1.

All Saints is also a Christian formula invoking all the faithful saints and martyrs, known or unknown.

The Western Christian holiday (officially Festum omnium sanctorum in the Roman Catholic Church) falls on 1 November, followed by All Souls' Day on 2 November, and is a Holy Day of Obligation, with a vigil and an octave.

Liturgical Color(s): White
Type of Holiday:Solemnity, Holy Day of Obligation (West); Feast (East)
Time of Year: November 1 (in the East, the Sunday after Pentecost)
Duration: One Day
Celebrates/Symbolizes: All Saints, known and unknown
Alternate Names: All Hallows, Hallowmas
Scriptural References
: Mark 12:26-27; Ephesians 6:18; Hebrews 12:1, Revelation 5:8

History
Christians have been honoring their saints and martyrs since at least the second century AD. The Martyrdom of Polycarp, probably written near the middle of the second century, attests to this reality. Initially the calendars of saints and martyrs varied from location to location, and many times local churches honored local saints. However, gradually feast days became more universal. The first reference to a general feast celebrating all saints occurs in St Ephrem the Syrian (d. AD 373). St. John Chrysostom (d. AD 407) assigned a day to the feast, the first Sunday after Pentecost, where in the Eastern Churches the feast is celebrated to this day. In the West, this date was probably originally used, and then the feast was moved to May 13th. The current observance (November 1) probably originates from the time of Pope Gregory III (d. AD 741).

The vigil of the Feast (the eve) has grown up in the English speaking countries as a festival in itself, All Hallows Eve, or Halloween. While many consider Halloween pagan (and in many instances the celebrations are for many), as far as the Church is concerned the date is simply the eve of the feast of All Saints. Many customs of Halloween reflect the Christian belief that on the feast's vigils we mock evil, because as Christians, it has no real power over us. However, for some Halloween is used for evil purposes, in which many Christians dabble unknowingly. David Morrison explains the proper relationship between Christians and Halloween. Various customs have developed related to Halloween.

In the Middle Ages, poor people in the community begged for "soul cakes," and upon receiving these doughnuts, they would agree to pray for departed souls. This is the root of our modern day "trick-or-treat." The custom of masks and costumes developed to mock evil and perhaps confuse the evil spirits by dressing as one of their own. Some Christians visit cemeteries on Halloween, not to practice evil, but to commemorate departed relatives and friends, with picnics and the last flowers of the year.

The day after All Saints day is called All Soul's Day, a day to remember and offer prayers up on behalf of all of the faithful departed. In many cultures it seems the two days share many customs.

Traditions and Customs
Visiting Cemeteries (All Hallows Eve)
Giving "Soul Cakes" To The poor (All Hallows Eve)

In Portugal, Spain and Mexico, ofrendas (offerings) are made on this day. In Spain, the play Don Juan Tenorio is traditionally performed. In Portugal and France, people offer flowers to dead relatives. In Poland and Germany, the tradition is to light candles and visit the graves of deceased relatives. In the Philippines, the day is spent visiting the graves of deceased relatives, where they offer prayers, lay flowers, and light candles, often in a picnic-like atmosphere. In English speaking countries, the festival is celebrated with the hymn "For All the Saints", set to music by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

The festival was retained after the Reformation in the calendar of the Church of England and in many Lutheran churches. In the Lutheran churches, such as the Church of Sweden, it assumes a role of general commemoration of the dead (similar to the All Souls commemoration in the Eastern Orthodox Church that takes place two Saturdays before the beginning of Lent). In the Swedish calendar, the observance takes place on the first Saturday of November. In many Lutheran Churches however, the festival has fallen into disuse.

Symbols
Sheaf of Wheat
Rayed Manus Dei (Hand of God)
Crown
Symbols of Individual Saints

posted by Peace at 10/09/2006 02:57:00 PM

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