is All Saints' Day?
W. Terry Whalin
The still night in the fall stands out in my mind. My family was
living in an area that was miles away from any blacktopped road in Guatemala,
Central America. Our calendars showed a religious holiday called All Saints' Day.
Unlike the American tradition of Halloween, there were no children carrying bags
headed for trick-or-treating. Instead I stood in the starlit night in a cemetery
stirring with activity.
Many of the local people had gathered at the cemetery
for an all-night vigil at the graves of their family members. The gravestones
and monuments were covered with food. The people brought food to eat, and alcohol
to drink. After the celebration, they left some of the food and drink on the graves.
This experience marked my introduction to the holiday of All Saints' Day. It was
only the beginning of my learning about the origin of this holiday.
to Microsoft Encarta's Online Encyclopedia, All Saints' Day, or Allhallows
or Hallowmas, is a festival celebrated on November 1st in Roman Catholic, Anglican
and Orthodox churches on the first Sunday after Pentecost. The celebration honors
God and all of His saints—known and unknown.
The encyclopedia continues,
"Pope Gregory IV gave the custom official authorization in 835. November
1 may have been chosen because it was the day of one of the four great festivals
of the pagan nations of the north. It was church policy to supplant pagan with
Catherine Fournier, in her article about All Saints'
writes, "The feast day commemorates and celebrates all saints and martyrs
who have no official feast day on the calendar, and who may only be known as saints
to God and the angels. As such an old and popular feast, many cultures around
the world developed special observances of the feast. The feast is used to honor
family members who have died in the past year as well as the saints and martyrs.
Traditional foods include dirge (soul) cakes, otherwise known as doughnuts, whose
round ring shape symbolizes eternity. Apples are also popular food on this day,
and apple dishes are common gifts on this day in some European countries."
The Anglican Church has a liturgy for celebration on this holiday. A complete
Episcopal service for this day is located on the Web at: www.io.com/~kellywp/YearABC/HolyDays/SaintsI.html.
many people, All Saints' Day is simply a pagan holiday, which comes at the heels
of Halloween and all the secular activities. The roots of the holiday are anchored
in the life of the Church. This year, possibly you can use the lectionary lesson
to recall saints who have left your family during the year and to celebrate God's
blessing on their lives.
from CBN.com's Halloween Page
More from Spiritual Life
W. Terry Whalin has written for more than 50 publications and published more than 50 books,
including Prayers For My Son and Prayers For My Daughter. His Web site is located
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