Painting of various saints by Fra Angelico

The feast of All Saints has been known by many names throughout the ages and has been celebrated on various days since the fourth century B.C. Today it is still known as All Saint’s Day, the Solemnity of All Saints, or the Feast of All Saints, but in the middle ages it was called All Hallow’s Day or Hallowmas. We can see the remnants of this name in the title of the day which comes before it, Halloween or All Hallow’s Eve.

From these common names, one may be able to deduce that there is some sort of connection between the word “saint” and the word “hallow,” but what exactly that connection is would be a bit more difficult. The connection is in their meaning, holy. And the clear difference in their spelling is from their root language. For “saint” the root is of the Latin word sanctus, while for “hallow” the root is of the Old English, or Germanic, word halig. The Germanic root is also the root for the word “holy” in modern English, which we use to translate sanctus.

The date on which this feast is celebrated is different between the Eastern and Western Catholic Churches. In the West, the Solemnity is held on November 1st. But in the East, the Solemnity is observed on the first Sunday after Pentecost. Since the fourth century, various different celebrations for all the saints have been held usually near Easter or Pentecost. Why the feast in the West is now celebrated on November 1st is somewhat of a mystery. Some sources say that it was because Pope Gregory III dedicated an oratory in St. Peter’s Basilica to all the saints on November 1 during his pontificate. Other sources claim the November celebration originated in the British Isles.

However this Solemnity developed over time in different places, being influenced by different cultures, we still remember those who have entered heaven before us and celebrate their good example.