The feast day we celebrate today, All Saints’ Day, can trace its origins back to the 7th century when Pope Boniface IV consecrated the Pantheon in Rome to Our Blessed Mother and all the martyrs. This has been celebrated in Rome ever since on the 13th of May. This date, May 13th, is the original commemoration of all the martyrs of the Church.
In the 9th century, the Byzantine Emperor Leo VI dedicated a church to “All Saints.” He had originally wished to dedicate it to his wife who had recently passed away and had led a devout life, but was forbidden to do so. In this way, if she was in Heaven, she would be remembered with all the saints whenever the feast was honored.
Eastern churches celebrate the Feast of All Saints on the first Sunday after Pentecost and is known as All Saints’ Sunday.
All Saints’ Day on November 1 as celebrated today was moved to this date by Pope Gregory III (731-741) after he consecrated a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter to all the saints. He fixed the anniversary for this consecration on November 1. Pope Gregory IV (827-844) expanded this anniversary to the entire Church.
All Saints’ Day is considered a national holiday in several countries, usually those with a strong Catholic heritage. It is also a Holy Day of Obligation in many countries, including the United States (so get thee to Church today!).
Customs vary throughout the world. In many places people visit the graves of loved ones and light candles, clean the graves, leave flowers, and clean and repair the graves. One of the most interesting customs I found was in areas around Lisbon, Portugal where children go out in the morning asking for “Bread for God.” This custom commemorates the earthquake that destroyed the city on November 1, 1755. Children collect bread, cakes, dried fruit, pomegranates, and nuts.
Another interesting piece of trivia, the NFL team the New Orleans Saints takes it’s name from All Saints Day, due in part to the large Catholic population of New Orleans.
“All Saints’ Day” at Catholic.org
“Halloween and All Saints Day” at Catholic Culture
“All Saints’ Day” at the Catholic Encyclopedia, New Advent
“The Catholic Origins of Halloween” at uCatholic (although it is an article about Halloween, it also describes a bit of the history of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day; a very interesting read)
“Pão-por-Deus” no Dia de Todos os Santos (All Saints’ Day) a blog post about a woman’s first experience of the central Portugal tradition of children asking for cakes and bread on November 1.
“New Orleans Saints” from Wikipedia
For more Quick Takes, head on over to Jen’s place where you will be treated to many 7 Quick Takes posts on this first day in November. Happy All Saints’ Day!