The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs by Fra Angelico can ben seen in the National Gallery
It always seems to take a few days to get back into routine after a break, so I thought I'd post a short piece to mark All Saints' Day, and then, later in the week, I'll write about my holiday in the Isle of Man. Today is All Saints' Day, which is also known as All Hallows’ Day or Hallowmas. It is a feast day in the Anglican and Catholic Churches when believers remember all the saints and martyrs, known and unknown.
It’s a tradition which dates back to the 4th century AD, but it was in 609 AD that Pope Boniface IV established a special day (originally May 13) to honour Christian, and more than 200 years later, in 837, Pope Gregory IV broadened the festival, renamed it as the Feast of All Saints, and moved it to November 1.
In the Catholic Church the festival is known as the Solemnity of All Saints, which I think sound s very dignified, and it is a Day of Obligation when the faithful should attend mass and, according to Canon Law, refrain from ‘those works and affairs which hinder the worship to be rendered to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s day, or the suitable relaxation of mind and body’.
In many European countries people lay flowers on the graves of their loved ones, and light candles in their memory, and once upon a time an overnight vigil (on the eve of All Hallows) was part of the ritual – but today the Hallowe’en customs seem to have taken over, and few people remember that All Saints Day is one of the great church festivals.
However, November 1 also marks the Celtic festival of Samhain, the end of summer when animals were killed ready for winter food, or ‘cleansed’ in fires, and when people looked to the past and future and considered ageing and death. It was believed that at Samhain ancestors returned, and that fairies and spirits were abroad in the world, released from normal restraints while the Goddess left the world for three days.
You could celebrate by cooking a favourite dish... or give flowers to someone you love... or simply light a candle...