What is All Saint’s Day? All Saints’ Day is a time to celebrate heroes of the faith from scripture, as well as prominent figures in the early church.
At first it was local, individual celebrations for friends and family members who’d been killed for their faith. Then the church decided to choose one day to celebrate all martyrs. Later, that came to include all saints, not just those who died for their faith, but also ordinary Christians who lived quiet, faithful lives.
At first, the church observed All Saints’ Day in the spring around Easter.
Then Christianity spread to northern Europe.
GAUTHIER: And Northern Europe was Celtic. And there was a great Celtic feast. You know, basically about November 1.
That feast was Samhain—the festival that, in part, led to our modern version of Halloween. The church decided to move its celebration of saints to that season. Part of the goal was to give new believers a better holiday to observe instead of the pagan one.
So November 1st became All Saints’ Day. In the 10th century, the church added a vigil the night before. Over the years, that eventually morphed into Halloween.
The excerpt above is from World Reporter Anna Johnansen Brown’s conversation with Stephen Gauthier, a canon theologian for the Anglican Church in North America.