Christians from all over the world took a moment yesterday to honor the departed, taking part in Church services, festivals and other forms of celebration. “All Saints’ Day” which falls each year on Nov. 1., is celebrated especially in the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Anglican communities.
All Saints’ Day began as the Feast of All Martyrs on May 13, 609, when Pope Boniface IV dedicated the pagan Pantheon in Rome as a church, in honor of the Virgin Mary and all martyrs. The feast was held to honor all martyrs, including those whose names were unknown, and therefore, had no feast day.
During the reign of Pope Gregory III, the festival was moved to Nov. 1 and extended to all saints, not just martyrs; although the Orthodox Church still celebrates the All Saints' Day in spring, on the first Sunday after Pentecost. In 837, Pope Gregory IV officially added the feast to the church calendar.
While Catholics are required to attend mass on All Saints' Day, in many parts of the world, the celebrations are more elaborate, moving beyond the confines of the church building.
In Santiago Sacatepequez, Guatemala, the local youth create beautiful, massive kites to fly in the cemetery of Santiago Sacatepequez on Nov. 1 or 2.
In Louisiana, a number of communities such as Lacombe (near New Orleans) continue an All Saints' tradition brought over from France, in which candlelight vigils are held, and the local priest comes by for a brief ceremony on Nov. 1. In the days preceding All Saints' Day, people visit their local cemetery to clean the graveyard, as well as paint the graves and decorate them with flowers and lighted candles.
Decorated graves and candlelight vigils are also found in Europe and in the Philippines, where families play bingo and mahjong during their visits to the cemeteries.
Many in Krakow, Poland, celebrate the feast days with the All Saints' And All Souls' Day Jazz Festival, though the more traditional Polish faithful celebrate in much the same way as the rest of Catholic Europe. In Warsaw, vigils are held not only in the Catholic cemeteries, but in the Protestant, Muslim and Orthodox cemeteries as well.
Although All Saints’ Day is celebrated by Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, Anglicans, and Lutherans, because of their differing understandings of the identity and function of the saints, what these churches do on the Feast of All Saints differs widely. For Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and to some extent, Anglicans, All Saints is a day to remember, thank God for, but also to venerate and pray to the saints in heaven for various helps. For Lutherans the day is observed by remembering and thanking God for all saints, both dead and living. It is a day to glorify Jesus Christ, who by his holy life and death has made the saints holy through Baptism and faith.