All Saints Day isn't a holiday practiced by every denomination in Christianity, but we could argue that every Christian does remember former Christians who have passed on from this life into the next. Many congregations will light candles on All Saints Day (or All Souls Day, depending on when the Sunday falls that calendar year) to honor those who have come before us. The holiday typically falls on November 1. According to Crosswalk.com, "November 1 became All Saints Day, otherwise known as All Hallow’s Day. Christians would come together on this day to ask for God’s protection from evil in the world as well as blessings. Patrons would dress up in costumes of evil spirits or saints in order to depict the battle between good and evil."
The holiday typically is wedged between All Hallow's Eve and All Souls Day.
Below I'll provide some information about All Saints Day and how we can pray during this holiday on November 1.
What Is the Meaning of All Saints Day?
The string of three holidays—All Hallow's Eve, All Saints Day, All Souls Day, was created by the church back in the 7th century to combat some pagan holidays that happened around the time, such as Samhain (as we know it now, Halloween).
However, the holiday of All Saints Day may have originated much sooner, as early as the time of Polycarp.
Typically the three holidays can often get squished together and their meanings jumbled, but the effort of the church to create these typically to combat the evil forces at work in the world, and to honor the souls who have passed into heaven.
According to Crosswalk.com, "The Christian festival of All Saints Day comes from a conviction that there is a spiritual connection between those in Heaven and on Earth. In Catholic tradition, the holiday honors all those who have passed on to the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a national holiday in numerous historically Catholic countries. In Methodist tradition, All Saints Day relates to giving God earnest gratitude for the lives and deaths of his saints, remembering those who were well-known and not."
All Souls Day specifically honors the Christians who are no longer with us. We should also make a note that Catholic tradition holds that it's a day reserved for prayer for the souls that are in purgatory, a concept that most denominations do not align with.
But what about All Saints? What does that holiday focus on?
There's a biblical idea that everyone who is saved is a saint. The Bible refers to Christians as saints (Acts 9:13). So All Saints Day not only honors those who have passed, but those believers who are still with us.
How Is All Saints Day Celebrated?
It can differ from congregation to congregation—and often if celebrated on a Sunday, rather than November 1, it may be a combination of all three holidays. But often a famous hymn known as For All the Saints is sung.
Prayers are often lifted up for those who have gone before us and those who are still with us.
"There's a yearly reminder of our connectedness as Christians to the church. It's called "All Saints Day" and is commemorated every November 1st. Perhaps, you were taught to think of saints as statues in a church building. But the Bible teaches something completely different. Who is a saint? You are."
Sometimes Christians will partake in a meal together on All Saints Day. Some traditional dishes include Pane dei Morti—bread of the dead—soul cakes with raisins, and Catalan almond sweets. Autumnal dishes may also be served. It typically depends on the region and denomination celebrating.
When Is All Saints Day This Year?
All Saints Day will always fall on November 1. Depending on what denomination you attend, your church or parish may be doing something to celebrate.
Even if they are not, below we've compiled some prayers to be able to lift up for those who are with us, those who are passed, and those we don't often remember (whether with us or gone).
The All Saints Day prayers below aren't in any way comprehensive. We have a rich 2,000-year history to draw from, and so many saints who we will gladly meet in heaven. But this holiday and these prayers will help us to remember that we are part of one body and should seek unity and community with one another.
A Prayer for the Saints Still With Us
God, I can often forget that those who are saved are saints. No matter what my understanding of the word saint...I want to lift up those who are a part of the Christian community who still walk on this earth. May you give us a zeal for our mission to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth. And may you help me to be an encouragement to my fellow brother and sisters. When they stumble, help me to be the arms to lift them up. When they need encouragement, help me to be the one to offer them solace. Amen.
A Prayer for the Saints We've Forgotten
Lord, we can so often remember the Christians who moved mountains, by earthly standards, but please help us to pray and remember those who fulfilled their missional calling behind the scenes. We have been blessed by such a long history of the church, that many can go unforgotten. Please help us to learn from the lives of those who didn't earn much spotlight. Let us glean from their humility and servitude. After all, you humbled yourself, even to the most shameful death that existed during your time, the cross. May we be more like these saints, and more like you, every day. Amen.
A Prayer for the Saints Who Are No Longer with Us
God, when I hear the word "saint" I often associate it with those who no longer walk this earth, who are dwelling in eternal rest. I can think of many people in my own life who had an impact with me, who I cannot wait to see them again. Lord, I dearly miss my friends and family who are not here on earth anymore. But I also rejoice that they will no longer experience pain or shed any tears of sadness. God, although I'm sad I am temporarily away from them, I want to thank you so much for bringing them into my life. They have shaped me to be more like you, and I will forever remember their example. Amen.
A Prayer for All Saints, Living and No Longer Living
Heavenly Father, you have enriched us with such a wonderful universal church. We have so many faithful examples to draw from, and so many stories of faith and trust in you. I lift up the universal church to you now. May the stories of those from the past be able to encourage us, and may we be able to shine your light, so that future generations may look back on our example and feel the same trust and conviction that we do. Amen.
Whether you come from a tradition that celebrates All Saints Day or not, All Saints Day gives us an opportunity to thank God for the community and history of the church. May we embrace our unity and connectedness, so that we can be able to effectively share the Gospel and radiate the hope within us.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Javier_Art_Photography
Hope Bolinger is an acquisitions editor at End Game Press, and the author of almost 30 books. More than 1500 of her works have been featured in various publications. Check out her books at hopebolinger.com for clean books in most genres, great for adults and kids.
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