SHOULD CHRISTIANS OBSERVE ALL SAINTS’ DAY?
by Shawn Brasseaux
What exactly is All Saints’ Day? Should Christians celebrate it? “For what saith the Scriptures?”
Let us begin by announcing that there is nothing in the Holy Bible about “All Saints’ Day.” However, the Catholic Encyclopedia has the following:
“The vigil of this feast is popularly called ‘Hallowe’en’ or ‘Halloween’.
“Solemnity celebrated on the first of November. It is instituted to honour all the saints, known and unknown, and, according to Urban IV, to supply any deficiencies in the faithful’s celebration of saints’ feasts during the year.
“In the early days the Christians were accustomed to solemnize the anniversary of a martyr’s death for Christ at the place of martyrdom. In the fourth century, neighbouring dioceses began to interchange feasts, to transfer relics, to divide them, and to join in a common feast; as is shown by the invitation of St. Basil of Caesarea (379) to the bishops of the province of Pontus. Frequently groups of martyrs suffered on the same day, which naturally led to a joint commemoration. In the persecution of Diocletian the number of martyrs became so great that a separate day could not be assigned to each. But the Church, feeling that every martyr should be venerated, appointed a common day for all. The first trace of this we find in Antioch on the Sunday after Pentecost. We also find mention of a common day in a sermon of St. Ephrem the Syrian (373), and in the 74th homily of St. John Chrysostom (407). At first only martyrs and St. John the Baptist were honoured by a special day. Other saints were added gradually, and increased in number when a regular process of canonization was established; still, as early as 411 there is in the Chaldean Calendar a ‘Commemoratio Confessorum’ for the Friday after Easter. In the West Boniface IV, 13 May, 609, or 610, consecrated the Pantheon in Rome to the Blessed Virgin and all the martyrs, ordering an anniversary. Gregory III (731-741) consecrated a chapel in the Basilica of St. Peter to all the saints and fixed the anniversary for 1 November. A basilica of the Apostles already existed in Rome, and its dedication was annually remembered on 1 May. Gregory IV (827-844) extended the celebration on 1 November to the entire Church. The vigil seems to have been held as early as the feast itself. The octave was added by Sixtus IV (1471-84).”
All Saints’ Day is observed on November 1, and it is clearly connected to Halloween (October 31). Halloween itself is definitely not of Christian or Biblical origin. (For more information, see our study linked at this end of this article.) All Saints’ Day should not be confused with All Souls’ Day, which is November 2. (For more information, see our study linked at this end of this article.)
Simply put, All Saints’ Day is a Roman Catholic feast-day to remember and honor “all the saints” (church members who are assumed to have made it to Heaven!). Various other denominations have been influenced to observe it, including Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican, and Methodist churches. While practices and traditions vary among groups and countries, cemeteries are usually visited and graves are cleaned and decorated with flowers and/or other objects. Depending on the denomination, prayers for the dead may be offered. This, of course, is certainly not found in the true Bible. (Prayers for the dead are in the Roman Catholic Bible—namely, the apocryphal book known as 2 Maccabees, chapter 12, verses 42-46.)
Nothing in the real Bible—the “Protestant” (King James) Bible—establishes any feast-days for us in this the Dispensation of Grace. Saint Paul, in the Books of Romans through Philemon, was careful to note the observance of religious holidays and other “holydays” was legalistic (distractions from grace-oriented living): “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain” (Galatians 4:9-11). “Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16-17).
Let there be no misunderstanding. There is nothing wrong with cleaning and/or decorating the graves of loved ones. However, so as to “abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22), it is not acceptable for the Bible-believing Christian to do it on a day rooted in pagan superstition and false doctrine. Furthermore, prayers for the dead are nothing but religious tradition. God’s Word does not encourage them. Those who have died have already had their chance to trust Jesus Christ as their personal Saviour. No longer on Earth, their time is up. Either they believed on Him in the heart (and went to Heaven), or they did not believe on Him in the heart (and went to Hell). No prayers can help them in Hell. Contrary to Roman Catholic teaching, there is no “purgatory” (a place of temporal punishment meant to atone for any sins that prevent a soul from entering Heaven). For more information, see our “All Souls’” article linked below.