All Saints’ Day is a holy day which commemorates the faith modeled and handed down to us by deceased Christians. It celebrates the unity of the church across time and draws emphasis to the work of God’s sanctifying grace in his people.
Roman Catholics reserve November 1 for canonized saints and commends all other faithful Christians on November 2 (All Souls’ Day). Protestants, who do not invoke the saints in prayers nor offer up intercession on behalf of the dead, have collapsed these two days into one and observe it on November 1. The Orthodox church keeps All Saints’ Day on May 13 in some rites and on the Sunday after Pentecost in others.
While some medieval and modern Halloween traditions can be traced to the merging of Roman myths with the Celtic druid Samhain festivals (as well as many later customs scattered across cultures), All Saints’ Day also emerged from holy days in earlier church history which honored the sacrifice of Christian martyrs. Its adoption therefore not only allayed or appropriated pagan imagination but primarily honored an existing Christian tradition.
Despite the reluctance of some Christians to embrace days that are associated with spiritual darkness, such as the revelry and horror in some modern Halloween celebrations, there is a way to acknowledge cultural practices in a way that testifies to and anticipates the return of Jesus Christ with new creation. The church can do this in way that repudiates claims that either the dead or evil spirits have on the living. God’s people can maintain their theological integrity by reclaiming a vision of Christ’s work as that of victor over sin, death, and the devil (christus victor).
Consider the following Scriptures for reading and reflecting on All Saints’ Day: Deuteronomy 7:6; Psalms 16:3; Psalm 149:4; Daniel 7:18; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 2:19; Philippians 2:15; Hebrews 2:11; Hebrews 12:1; 1 Peter 2:5 & 9; Jude 1:3; Revelation 21:7.
Several rich hymns have been penned which can be sung to commemorate God’s work in and among the saints: Christ the Victorious; Come, Let Us Join Our Friends Above; For All the Saints; I Sing a Song of the Saints of God; Servant of God, Well Done!; Ten Thousand Times Ten Thousand.