I remember as a child attending the yearly harvest party at our church. You could dress as a Bible character, and I typically went as Mary or Ruth. I remember the year one clever girl dressed in more creative attire. Draped in a bed sheet with her face painted white, she went to the party as Lot’s wife (Genesis 19:26). Yes, she was a pillar of salt.
Back then, harvest parties were the church-sanctioned alternative to spookier Halloween celebrations. Instead of focusing only on characters from the Bible, however, perhaps we should have expanded our costume options to include all our favorite historical Christians. That would be an especially fitting way to celebrate the night before All Saints’ Day.
According to one article, All Saints’ Day, celebrated on November 1, is the day “we remember the saints and allow the memory of their faith to spur us on to deeper worship and greater service to the Lord.” Also known as “All Hallows’ Day” or “Hallowmas,” it is a Christian celebration in honor of all the saints from Christian history. Historically, Halloween (All Hallows’ Eve) was a day when the faithful would pray, fast, and even go to church in preparation for the following day.
While the holiday is more faithfully celebrated by those in the Catholic Church, “All Saints’ Day celebrates all faithful followers of Jesus throughout church history,” one article explains. “It’s a feast day remembering those who have gone before us, honoring their lives and faithfulness. Believers come together to celebrate continued communion with saints through the ages, recognizing their continued participation in the body of Christ.”
The lesser-known holiday
Despite its great history, I don’t remember one time I’ve celebrated All Saints’ Day. I see it on my calendar, so I know it’s significant, but the holiday is overshadowed by pumpkins and candy and costumed children coming to my door. Yet this underappreciated holiday is worthy of celebration.
The above article continues:
“The 1662 Book of Common Prayer says that the holiday stands for ‘the unity of Christians of all ages, countries, and races in Christ, and the perfection of that unity in heaven.’ It dates the holiday back to about A.D. 610 when the Pantheon in Rome, turned into a Christian Church, was dedicated to all saints. Sounds like the prayer book has the right idea.”
Believers should consider celebrating All Saints’ Day, which offers us an opportunity to remember our connection with Christians throughout history. As we consider that unity, we can find inspiration and encouragement through their stories.
Hebrews 11 gives many examples of the great cloud of witnesses in the Bible whose lives tell of God’s unfailing love and grace. Stories of missionaries including Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor and George Mueller can inspire us to trust God more deeply. Tales of reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, who championed the authority of Scripture in an era of church corruption, should increase our passion for doing the same.
October 31 is also Reformation Day — the anniversary of the day in 1517 when Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany — ushering in the Reformation. One article explains:
“During the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the Church doors were used as a type of ‘bulletin board’ where public notices were often posted for people to read. Martin Luther chose October 31, All Hallows’ Eve, as the day to post his theses because of the vast number of people who would be required to attend church on November 1, All Saints’ or All Hallows’ Day.”
How to celebrate
Knowing the background of this under-celebrated day, here are a few ways I propose Christians observe the holiday:
Meet with believers for a meal, and share testimonies. All Saints’ Day is a feast day to celebrate being connected with other believers. Invite friends over for a meal or go out and make “the word of your testimony” part of the festivities. Our stories of faith are powerful. They pull us out of isolation as we learn we are not alone, and they give us hope when we see how God is working in other people’s lives.
Learn more about a historical saint. There is a treasure trove of inspiring stories of Christians dating back to Bible times. Learn more about someone in the Bible, or perhaps a missionary, reformer, or influential Christian from a more recent era. Consider the ways their lives are different and the same as your own. What can you learn from them and apply to your own Christian walk?
Host a movie night to watch a film about an influential saint. I recommend “The Most Reluctant Convert: the Untold Story of C.S. Lewis” or “Amazing Grace” about William Wilberforce. Movies speak to me, and I enjoy films like these that inspire my faith through the stories of other believers.
Thank God for the saints. Our connection with the faithful alive today and those throughout history is an incredible gift. Jesus Christ is not only for us; His gospel has been alive and active for centuries, causing miracles, changing cultures, and pushing forward His great plans and purposes for the world. Before the day ends, thank Him for the family of God and the honor of being a part of it.
Copyright 2023 Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. All rights reserved.