This year All Saints Day, Nov. 1, falls on a Thursday and is a holy day of obligation. The feast honors saints both well-known and lesser-known. Even though Halloween has become a popular secular observance, its history and definition point toward the two days that follow.
In an article for UCatholic, Father Augustine Thompson, O.P. writes, “The origins of Halloween are, in fact, very Christian and rather American. Halloween falls on Oct. 31 because of a pope, and its observances are the result of medieval Catholic piety.”
Roughly translated, Halloween means the evening before All Saints Day. “Hallow” as a verb means to honor as holy and, as a noun, “hallow” refers to a saint or holy person. While the Church has honored All Saints Day for centuries, it was during the 9th century that Pope Gregory IV placed the feast on Nov. 1 in honor of the dedication of the All Saints Chapel in St. Peter’s Basilica.
All Souls Day, Nov. 2, is a day set aside on the Church’s calendar to pray for the dead. The day, according to AmericanCatholic.org, “is the acknowledgment of human frailty.” Essentially, since most people who die require a period of purification, the commemoration of all the faithful departed provides a day for the faithful to pray specifically for souls’ purification prior to an encounter with God.
While children may be more excited for all hallows eve, it provides a simple reminder to pray for those in heaven and the souls on the journey to their eternal reward during the feast of All Saints and the commemoration of all the faithful departed.