All Saints’ Day is Nov. 1 every year, but the festival is celebrated on the first Sunday in November. There is some debate about how the celebration of All Saints originated. According to some sources, the idea for All Saints’ Day goes back to the fourth century, when the Greek Christians kept a festival on the first Sunday after Pentecost (in late May or early June) in honor of all martyrs and saints. Other sources say that a commemoration of “All Martyrs” began to be celebrated as early as 270 CE, but no specific month or date is recorded. Pope Gregory IV made All Saints’ Day an authorized festival in 837 CE. It is speculated that the chosen date for the event, November 1, may have been an attempt to supplant the pagan Festival of the Dead (also known as Samhain or the feast of Saman, lord of death). All Saints’ Day is closely tied with All Souls’ Day, which was first instituted at the monastery in Cluny in 993 CE and quickly spread among Christians.
In the Lutheran Church (and in most Protestant denominations), we view all Christian believers as saints. We are made saints, or made holy, by what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Consequently, we don’t just celebrate people who have died in faith. We also use All Saints Day to remember all Christians, past and present, as holy in God’s eyes.
At Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, we also take this day to remember our members, friends and family who entered the Church Triumphant since the last All Saints’ Day.