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All Saints Day Part Two

Posted by St. Jude Shop on

Last time, we began to dig a little deeper into the origins of All Saints Day, one of the Catholic church’s oldest traditions. If you missed it, you can find it here. Today we are going to conclude this two-part series by taking a closer look at the historical origins of this sacred day.

The Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

Pagan Holiday or Catholic Celebration Continued

Samhain and All Saints Day

Nearly 100 years after Pope Boniface IV declared a holiday in celebration of the Virgin Mary and the martyrs, Pope Gregory III expanded the original celebration to include all saints and martyrs and moved the observance to November 1st rather than May 13th. November 1st was an important day in Ireland, the center for Christian evangelism at the time, as it marked the end of the summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter. The Celts believed that on the eve of the new season, the boundaries between the worlds of the living and the dead became thinner. They commemorated the event with the Samhain, a festival that marked the end of the year and the hopes they had for the coming one. They built sacred bonfires, where people burned crops and animals as sacrifices, and during the celebration they wore costumes made from animal skins and foretold each other’s futures. At the celebration’s end, they relit their extinguished hearthfires with the flames from the sacred bonfire to protect themselves in the coming winter. This was also a time when the spirits of the dead were said to be able to cross into our world, not unlike in the Roman tradition of Lemuralia.

Purposeful Evangelism

The move by the Church to observe All Saints Day on November 1st was likely a strategic one. As Christianity spread throughout Europe, priests and monks devised clever strategies to convert the population. They established places of worship near sacred pagan spots and were careful not to disrupt daily activities. By observing All Saints Day at the same time as Samhain, they were able to help people feel more comfortable with the idea of a new religion, one that didn’t require their current lifestyles to change overly much. The fact that the two holidays are closely connected by the honoring of the dead made it an easy transition.

So What?

Sometimes, the idea of All Saints Day being so closely linked to pagan holidays can be uncomfortable for some people. However, it’s important to understand the origins of the day and the parallels Christianity has with pagan holidays. Why? The simple answer is that it gives us an appreciation of who we are as people. Consider that Lemuralia, Samhain, and All Saints Day have differing origins and come from different cultures, and yet they share several commonalities. Those commonalities tell us something about us as humans: We all cherish and revere our lost loved ones. When we look past insignificant labels like “Christian” and “Pagan” we can begin to see that we are all the same, and we are all connected, and when that happens we can begin to relate to others who are different from us. This is an important idea, one that honors the saints and the martyrs, people who dedicated their lives to the Kingdom. It isn’t until we understand another person that we can begin to truly witness to them in a way that matters. So this All Saints Day, honor the departed by practicing understanding and learning about others. Maybe then we can effect real change and bring others closer to the Divine.

For a tangible reminder of our mission here on earth and the passion of the saints we honor on All Saints Day, St. Jude Shop is proud to offer statues, medallions, and other religious items to have as a ready reminder of the saints’ lives.. Browse our selection of patron saint religious articles today.

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