Remembering loved ones: All Saints and All Souls

  • 01.11.23
  • 12:01 AM
Closeup of candles

The Feasts of All Saints and All Souls

On Wednesday 1st November the Catholic Church celebrates the Solemnity of All Saints: a Holy Day of Obligation which is the high point of a triduum of prayer when Christians remember the dead, including martyrs, saints, deceased loved ones and all faithful departed Christians. The triduum itself encompasses All Saints' Eve (often termed Halloween, or All Hallows Eve), All Saints' Day and All Souls. and arises from the belief that there is a spiritual link between those in heaven - termed the "Church Triumphant" - and the living - the "Church Militant". 

In the early 8th Century Pope Gregory III  transferred the Feast of All Saints from its former Feast Day of May 13th to November 1st. This was to coincide with a new chapel in St Peter's Basilica which he dedicated to all the saints in heaven, both known and unknown. The Feast celebrates those who have reached Heaven, and these individuals are honoured throughout the Universal Church, whilst on All Souls Day we pray for those still on their journey to Heaven (the Church Suffering).
If you wish to attend Mass on the Solemnity of All Saints, which is a Holy Day of Obligation, or All souls please check the website of your local church for times of Masses on All Souls Day.

How does Halloween relate to a time of remembrance in the Church Year?

Some Catholics may be uncertain about the relation of Halloween, which is known more traditionally as 'All Hallows Eve', to this special time of remembrance in the Church's year. It was customary in historic Catholic Europe to hold pious celebrations the day before a solemnity. This comes from a time when people’s lives generally moved in tandem with the liturgical calendar. All Hallows Eve would have been kept as a vigil the evening before All Saints Day and the current secular interpretation of Halloween is not in resonance with its true origin. This three-day period of All Hallows Eve, the Solemnity of All Saints and the Feast of All Souls is essentially intended to be a beautiful celebration of the Communion of Saints. All solemnities in the Catholic Church begin on the evening before the feast day, and so the evening of October 31 - Halloween - inaugurates the liturgical celebration.

Celebrating All Hallows with young people

For those who are seeking some creative alternatives for children, away from the secular celebrations of trick or treat and pumpkin carving, here are a few ideas:
🍰 Cook or bake something special together, such as the Allerheiligenstriezel pastry that godfathers give their godchildren in Austria and BavariaStreizel
Find out how other counties mark All Saints and All Souls Day
🎨 Get crafty:  make or paint your favourite saint
🕯 Be cosy by candlelight and read about the lives of saints
🌟 Make Halloween a 'night of light:' safely light lanterns and go for an evening walk with family and friends
👑 Dress up as saints, take pictures and send to friends or family members so they can guess who you are!
Polish Cemetery on All Saints Day
All Saints' Day at a cemetery in Gniezno, Poland – flowers and candles placed to honor deceased relatives.  Photo: Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 4.0,

All Saints image: Fra Angelico  (c1395-1455), National Gallery.

This work is in the Public Domain