All Saints’ Day is a special day celebrated on November 1st by parts of Western Christianity (and on the first Sunday after Pentecost in Eastern Christianity) in honor of all the saints, both known and unknown. Saints are defined as those who have died and are believed to have achieved the eternal home of heaven. It is from this solemnity that the now secular holiday of Halloween was derived – “All Hallows Eve” being an archaic term for the night before “All Saints Day”.
The Christian Calendar celebrates many of the more well-known saints throughout the year, with many variations by country and culture, but since the number of canonized saints (meaning those who are officially known and recognized) vastly outnumbers the available days in a year, this day is meant to serve as a remembrance of all those holy people who might not be remembered otherwise.
This holiday is celebrated in the Anglican faith as well as in many Lutheran churches. It is also celebrated by many other Protestants of the English tradition, such as the United Church of Canada, the Methodist churches, and the Wesleyan Church.
Roman Catholics in particular celebrate All Saints’ Day in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual communion between those who have died in the state of grace (that is either those in heaven or those being purified in Purgatory) with those who are still living here on Earth. For Roman Catholics in the United States the date is a “holy day of obligation” meaning that mass attendance is mandatory, save for good reason otherwise.
Protestants generally regard all true Christian believers as saints and if they observe All Saints Day at all they use it to remember all Christians both past and present. For example, in the Methodist Church, on All Saints’ Day, the universal church as well as the deceased members of a local congregation, are honored and remembered.