From the Bible
Read Hebrews 11-12:3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
All Saints Day is part two of the traditional Christian triduum of Hallowmas, preceded by Halloween and followed by All Souls Day.
For the Celtic Christians Hallowmas coincides with the ancient Druid celebration of samhain (SAHW inn) – the beginning of the darker half of the year (winter). This night is known to be, of all days of the year, the thinnest place between the living and the dead. All Soul’s Day (remembering and praying for the departed who haven’t made it to Paradise yet) is on Nov 2 in the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches.
Today is the celebration at the center of it all — All Saints Day, or All Hallows’ (all holy people’s) Day. For Christians still aware of it, today is a day to commemorate all those who went before us, especially the holy people who established and preserved the faith for us. Commemorating the martyrs of the faith with a regular holy-day began as early as the 4th Century but was codified on November 1 in 837. The holiday eventually expanded to include all Christians of the past, and sometimes includes those of the present.
Celebrations and observances vary. In Mexico as well as in a growing number of places around the world, honoring the dead through mass visitations of grave sites and preparation of favorite food of the deceased, guising, and going door to door for candy/presents/money are traditions that mark a similar festival for El Día de los Muertos (the Day of the Dead). For some, today is a day to remember and honor the children and infants who have died. Across Europe, lighting candles at graves or at home, singing particular hymns are typically part of the remembrance. Flowers, especially marigolds, typically are used to decorate memorials or alters.
We have a chance today not only to remember those heroes of the faith (like in Hebrews 11), but to remember beloved saints we have lost. It is a good day to look back and show honor and respect as well as to mourn. We remember all the saints who don’t have a specific feast day. We remember the spiritual ancestors who inspire us on our journey. We remember the partners in our church as well as members of our extended Christian family who have died.