All Saints Day, also known as All Hallows’ Day or Hallowmas, is celebrated in honor of all canonized saints from Christian history, according to The Catholic Church, as well as the Methodist Church, Lutheran Church and other protestant denominations celebrate it on Nov. 1. However, the Eastern Orthodox and associated Eastern Catholic churches observe All Saints Day on the first Sunday following Pentecost.  

The exact origins of this feast day are uncertain. But after the legalization of Christianity in 313, a common commemoration of the saints, especially the martyrs, appeared in various areas throughout the church, according to 

In 609 Roman Byzantine Emperor Phocus donated the Pantheon, a Roman temple that was dedicated to all gods, to Pope Boniface IV. According to in the early seventh century, after successive waves of invaders plundered the catacombs, Pope Boniface gathered up some 28 wagonloads of bones and reinterred them beneath the Pantheon and rededicated it on May 13 under the title St. Maria ad Martyres (or St. Mary and All Martyrs).  


According to Venerable Bede, the pope intended “that the memory of all the saints might in the future be honored in the place which had formerly been dedicated to the worship not of gods but of demons.”  

In the mid-eighth century, Pope Gregory III established Nov. 1 as a day dedicated to the saints and their relics, abolishing the May 13 date. 

With Halloween on Oct. 31, or All Saints Day Eve, the annual debate begins on whether Halloween is a pagan holiday or if it was Catholic roots. 

Tradition says Nov. 1 marked Samhain, the beginning of the Celtic winter.  Samhain, for whom the feast was named, was the Celtic lord of death, and his name literally meant “summer’s end.” 

The eve of Samhain, Oct. 31, was a time of Celtic pagan sacrifice, and Samhain allowed the souls of the dead to return to their earthly homes that evening.  Tradition also holds that ghosts, witches, goblins and elves came to harm the people, particularly those who had inflicted harm on them in this life.  Cats, too, were considered sacred because legend says felines had once been human beings who had been changed as a punishment for their evil deeds on this earth, according to   

With the spread of Christianity and the establishment of All Saints Day, some of these pagan customs remained in the English-speaking world for All Hallows Eve (or Halloween, All Saints Eve), perhaps at first more out of superstition, and later, more out of fun.  Nevertheless, All Saints Day arose from Christian devotion independent of Halloween.   

 Along with the feast of All Saints developed the feast of All Souls, which is celebrated on Nov. 2. On this day, Catholics offer prayers, good works and Masses for faithfully departed in purgatory being cleansed of their venial sins and the temporal punishments for the mortal sins that they had confessed, and being made pure before entering into the presence of God in heaven.   

In earlier times, the names of the faithful departed were posted in church so the community would remember them in prayer.     

In the 15th century, the Dominican order instituted a custom in which each priest celebrated three Masses on the feast of All Souls.  In 1748 Pope Benedict XIV approved of their practice, and it rapidly spread throughout Spain, Portugal and Latin America.    

During World War I, Pope Benedict XV, recognizing the number of war dead and the numerous Masses that could not be fulfilled because of destroyed churches, granted all priests the privilege of celebrating three Masses on All Souls Day: one for the particular intention, one for all of the faithful departed, and one for the intentions of the Holy Father.  

Soon All Souls Day was adopted by the whole church.