All Saints’ Day: in honor of the deceased

Holiday: All Saints' Day.


When? On 1 November.


Where? Austria and many other Roman Catholic countries.


The meaning and history. All Saints' Day, also known as All Hallows' Day, is a Christian festival celebrated in honor of all the saints, known and unknown. It is a national holiday in Austria; it is observed every November 1st. The next day, November 2nd is All Souls' Day, which commemorates all the souls of Christians who have died.


The holiday has its roots in the Greek Christians traditions from the 4th century, when special feast days were established to honor particular martyrs. As a number of martyrs grew in the 7th сentury the Catholic Church declared an official holiday for all saints, which was later moved to its current date.


How it is celebrated. In Austria, it is believed that during All Saints Day the division between the world of the living and the world of the dead becomes thinner. Many Austrian people attend mass on this day and then go to the graveyards to decorate graves with the autumn flowers (marigolds, chrysanthemums, etc.) and candles. They do it to express their love and honor of their deceased relatives.


The solemn family dinner is a good reason to get together. In some Austrian villages, people believe, that the dead also gather together on All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween) to hold family celebrations of their own. To light their way, people carry lanterns in processions through the graveyards.


Many Austrians help on All Saints Day people in need. Another tradition is popular among children: they go door to door singing special songs and receive small gifts.


Family traditions. Hedwig Wohlschlager (42) from Villach tells how her parents celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day. “I guess these days become for you really important when you lost somebody from your family or your close friends. My parents commemorate on these days their deceased parents. They go to the grave and lay down flowers and flower arrangements. I'll probably make a tomb. It is wonderful to walk around the cemetery at dawn, as thousands of candles burn. In the city, there will certainly be Halloween parties, but it is the American influence. If you ask me, what does All Saints’ Day mean for me personally, I can say: this holiday let us remember that time runs very fast and we are only the guests in this world.”


Text: Vita Vitrenko