Be Careful Not To Confuse All Saints’ Day And The Day Of The Dead

During this weekend of All Saints’ Day, many will take the opportunity to go to meditate with their deceased loved ones. Yet the Day of the Dead is actually officially celebrated on November 2. This day of mourning and All Saints’ Day are two different commemorations, which we often tend to confuse.

All Saints is a Catholic festival celebrated on the 1 st of November. Unlike other major Christian holidays, it does not find its origin in biblical texts. Long celebrated a few days after Pentecost, it was created to commemorate all martyrs. If some have had recognition, through the canonization procedure, the Church considers that many others have lived in the service of God without being recognized. This is why All Saints’ Day aims to celebrate all the saints, known as unknown.  

From the year 610, All Saints’ Day was celebrated on May 13. On that day, Pope Boniface IV had the relics of the martyrs transported to the Pantheon in Rome, a former pagan temple, and transformed the Pantheon into the Church of Sainte-Marie aux Martyrs. VIII th  century, Pope Gregory III moved the date of All Saints on 1st  November, when he dedicated a chapel of St. Peter’s in honor of all the saints. Around 835, Pope Gregory IV ordered that the feast be celebrated throughout Christendom. This is the twentieth th  century, under the pontificate of Pius X, the Saints entered the list of eight Christian holidays, with the obligation to hear the Mass . 

Since its inception, All Saints’ Day has always been part of the 50 non-working days of the Catholic calendar. If it was suppressed during the French Revolution, to lessen the influence of the Church, it was reinstated in 1802 by Napoleon. It is therefore one of the eleven public holidays listed in the Labor Code .

The Day Of The Dead

Celebrated on November 2, the day of the dead directly follows All Saints’ Day, but was created later, in 998. The Benedictine monastery of Cluny then established the commemoration of all the deceased, and not just the martyrs. This is the XIII th  century the Church has included this day in its universal calendar. This is an opportunity for Catholics to go and flower the graves of their loved ones. Unlike All Saints’ Day, the Day of the Dead is not a public holiday.

The deceased are celebrated differently in other religions and cultures. In Mexico, for example, “el Día de los muertos” is a big celebration during which families gather around the graves of their loved ones with offerings, food, to the sound of the music of the mariachis.

It is Tuesday 2, when everyone will have returned to their daily lives, and the cemeteries will regain their peace of mind, which should normally be honored by the dead. Because All Saints’ Day and the Feast of the Dead are two distinct celebrations, which customs and centuries have finally united.

Proximity conducive to confusion

If confusion is frequent today, in the immense part of the population, it is for several reasons. The first is that All Saints’ Day has been a public holiday since the Concordat of 1801. And that the feast of the dead is not. It is therefore much easier to go to the cemetery the day before it.

The second is that the feast of the dead, originally Catholic (and not Christian, Protestants, for example, not celebrating it), has today largely crossed the door of the churches and that even those and those who are not believers sacrifice to tradition. The amalgamation, for those who are not familiar with religious meanings, is all the easier, because of the proximity of the two festivals. 

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