Today is All Saints Day, which might not mean much if you are not either Catholic or Episcopalian. The November 1st date of All Saints is why Halloween was last night, and the reason Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis to the door of the church at Wittenberg on October 31st – he knew that practically every person would see it the next day as they attended mass to celebrate All Saints.
Whatever you may have heard about Halloween being the celebration of Satan’s birthday (a created being that was not born) the origins are uniquely Christian, whereas the celebrations of Easter and Christmas are actually pagan but that’s another story. Richard Donohue, vicar of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Birmingham, offers the clearest explanation of Halloween, All Saints Day and All Souls Day I have ever read, including bits on the Book of the Dead and the Latin American tradition of “day of the dead” as well.
“All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are related, but they are two separate celebrations,” Donohoe said. “On All Saints’ Day there’s a call to live as saints, to remind us how we’re supposed to live. On All Souls’ Day, we’re talking about all souls and asking God’s mercy for them. We’re talking about those people who have died before us, and their process of getting to heaven, through Christ.”
This article was written by Greg Garrison for AL.com based on his interview with the Rev. Richard Donohue. I highly recommend clicking the link and reading it in full.