The Importance of All Saints' Day and How It's Commemorated Worldwide

Learn about the symbolism of the 1st of November and pick the right flowers for this special day.

By: THURSD. | 25-10-2023 | 11 min read
Special Days
Figures of saints in a church

All Saints' Day is widely known and commemorated around the entire globe because it holds special significance in the Catholic religion. It is a day that is known by different titles, some of which may surprise you. 'Hallowmas, All Hallows' Day, and the Solemnity of All Saints' are just a few names for this time of year. All Saints’ Day is a Catholic holiday for celebrating all of the saints. It is still observed in many cultures and religions today. Learn more about its history, why it is commemorated, its importance around the world, and the flowers that are used in the symbolism of this special day.

What Is All Saints' Day?

All Saints' Day is a Catholic celebration on November 1st dedicated to honoring all of the saints. While most saints have their own feast days on the Catholic calendar, it is not always practicable to observe all of these dates. Instead, most Catholics select All Saints' Day to commemorate all of the saints. Some of the European countries that commemorate this day are Portugal, Spain, Malta, Italy, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Catholic parts of Germany, Slovenia, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, Austria as well as the United States, a few Latin American countries and England. Although in Mexico All Saints' Day is celebrated on November 2nd, the final purpose of the celebration is the same.


Saints in glass window in a church
Photo: Nick Castelli from Unsplash

All Saints' Day is also a time to remember the saints who aren't canonized or who aren't in Heaven. Some saints are known solely to God in the Catholic tradition. Because they do not have their own holidays, they are recognized on All Saints' Day. This celebration, which centers around a large feast, has been part of the Christian tradition since the Roman Empire. It is, in fact, tied to the Western celebration of Halloween.

Because it was the eve of the celebration, the day before All Saints' Day is known as All Hallows Eve. Today, we simply refer to this as Halloween. Despite their pagan origins, these holidays have been absorbed into Christian culture.  All in all, the first of November is All Saints' Day. This year, commemorate this ancient event by learning about its history and traditions from around the world.


Virgin Mary in All Saints Day
Photo: Gianna Bonello from Unsplash


When Is All Saint's Day and a Little Historical Background on This Special Day

Though this is the day of the official feast, the actual festivities last a total of 3 days. It starts on All Hallows Eve or Halloween which is on October 31. The actual day of saints' commemoration is November 1. The last day is November 2, which is known as All Souls' Day. In the Catholic tradition, November 1 and 2 are days to remember the deceased. While Halloween is the American version of the Catholic prayer days, many people recognize the historical significance of All Hallows Eve. Now on to the history of this commemorative day!

Even if you are not a Christian, the history of All Saints' Day is fascinating. It has a distinct connection to American pop culture and Halloween, and it has a global following. It is still associated with Catholic funeral rites and practices today.  All Saints' Day originated in the fourth century. As the Romans persecuted Christians in greater numbers, they created their own holidays to honor the victims and saints they admired. However, it was not declared a feast until the seventh century by Pope Boniface IV.


All Saints Day celebration of saints worldwide
Photo: @blessedcreative_

The event was shifted to November 1 in the 8th century to coincide with the Celtic holiday of Samhain. Samhain, despite its pagan origins, has a focus strikingly similar to the Roman autumn celebration. Over time, these two traditions have merged into one celebration, both with rituals and festivities. All Saints' Day was kept by the Anglican and Lutheran churches after the Protestant Reformation. However, the emphasis in these traditions is on remembering the deceased rather than worshiping saints. While Protestants recognize the feast, they honor all Christians, both alive and deceased. 

All Saints' Day evolved as Christianity spread over the world. It has now been modified to various cultures, traditions, and people. On November 1, everyone has their unique way of remembering the deceased.

Why Do People Celebrate All Saints' Day?

Finally, this celebration (together with All Souls' Day) stems from the belief that the living are linked to those in Heaven. It is vital in Christianity to remember the deceased, especially those who were faithful during their lifetimes.


Candles lit for saints that have passed
Photo: @roamingwitheavinash

All Saints' Day is a day to thank the saints for their dedication and service. Though many well-known saints have their own commemorative days, not all do. This is a day to thank those who are less well-known, as well as those who are well-known. All Saints' Day commemorates:

Today, All Saints’ Day is often paired with Halloween celebrations. Though becoming more secular, traditional Christians advocate for a return to the Christian origins of the holiday. Ultimately, everyone has their own relationship with All Saints’ Day. For those who feel connected to the holiday, All Saints’ Day is a direct tie to the past and the long history of Christianity and faith.


Celebrating All Saints Day with flowers and candles
Cemetary during All Saints' Day in Gdynia, Poland by @365studiobeznazwy


How Do People Celebrate All Saints' Day Around the World?

In North and South America, you’re more likely to hear All Saints’ Day referred to by its Spanish name, Dia de Los Santos. This is one of the biggest annual holidays in Latin America. It’s celebrated in America and Canada, but mostly within Catholic or Hispanic communities. Dia de Los Santos has another name you’ve likely already heard before, Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Like other places around the world, the traditions of All Saints’ Day merged with existing indigenous beliefs, blending the old with the new. In countries with a strong indigenous culture, you’ll find a lot of unique traditions associated with this celebration.

In Latin America, families visit the gravesites of their deceased relatives. They usually bring food and flowers with them. This is one of the most well-known Mexican funeral traditions but it’s popular across all of Latin America. This is a time of inclusivity and celebration. Doors are open to guests who share traditional dishes, focusing on the favorite foods of their ancestors. Parties are held in cemeteries, and this is a joyous day.


All Saints Day celebration during dawn
Photo: @somomono


Europe, like Latin America, has placed its own spin on this festival. Different traditions will be found based on which country you are in. In Eastern Europe, it is customary for families to light candles to carry to their relatives' graves. Godfathers in Germany and Austria present their godchildren with a braided pastry. As can be seen, no two practices are the same.

In Ireland, All Saints’ Day relies heavily on the Celtic tradition. This was a time of year that was believed to break down the boundaries between the mortal and unearthly realms. Ancient people believed their dead relatives could actually communicate with them during this time. Irish traditions help link these ties between the living and dead.

It's no wonder that Italy has its unique customs as the home of the Catholic Church. Each Italian region and family has their unique way of celebrating, but there are certain commonalities. First, everyone in the family makes All Saints' Bread, a dough containing raisins, figs, and walnuts. There is also a particular dessert that is popular during the holiday season. Many people give gifts to their families, and parades are held in local cities and villages to commemorate the saints.

Flowers That Symbolize All Saints' Day

It is traditional to go down to the cemetery and put flowers on the graves of loved ones. It is also quite common to picnic in the grounds. This happens in the Philippines for example where all the graves are adorned with fresh flowers. The kinds of flowers used are those traditional for putting on graves.


A saint with pink mums
Chrysanthemums by @schneiderchiarini


As it is a celebration rather than a mourning of passing souls more colorful flowers such as cymbidium, roses, callas, and chrysanthemums might be used as well as more respectful bouquets of white lilies. Popular at both weddings and funerals, white lilies are believed to represent rebirth and purity. For funerals, white lilies celebrate a loved one moving on to the next place.


Lily Bach All Saints design by Robert Bartolen
Lily Bach by Bredefleur used by Róbert Bartolen in an arrangement as a church decoration


In this case, white chrysanthemums are also a very used choice to celebrate All Saints' Day due to their symbolism. White chrysanthemum symbolism varies depending on where you are. White chrysanthemum flowers are reserved for mourning and grief. However, white mums can also signify innocence, purity, honesty, and loyalty. Specifically for this case, it's a flower that is used to mourn lost ones and really works to commemorate this day.


Chrysanthemum Magnum All Saints
Chrysanthemum Magnum by Decorum grower Arcadia Chrysanten


All Saints Day is also known as 'All Souls Day' where flowers are traditionally bought for the 'bones'. Those who celebrate this day, usually give lilies, orchids, mums, callas, and roses. Common colors of flowers given include pink, orange, yellow, and red. When it comes to traditions in Europe for All Saints' Day, people usually take to the graves a beautifully made and complete flower arrangement that includes all the flowers mentioned above. White phalaenopsis orchids, for example, are a very well-known and popular type of flower to include in an All Saints' Day arrangement because of their delicate shape and colors.


Arrangement with white phalaenopsis
A very heartfelt arrangement for All Saints' Day using white phalaenopsis orchids and pink calla lilies


Let's not forget the use of calla lilies for All Saints' Day as well. Nowadays, callas are more symbolic of purity, sympathy, beauty, rebirth, and union. Specifically, a choice that is popularly used for this day is white and pink calla lilies. White calla lily flowers have come to represent resurrection and rebirth. This is also why calla lilies are a traditional choice for funeral arrangements and expressions of sympathy. Pink calla lilies symbolize appreciation and admiration so they are both a great fit to celebrate the upcoming day.

Lastly, the tradition of placing candles on the graves the evening before All Saints’ Eve is becoming more common. All Saints' Day is coming up quickly so make sure to restock on your favorite flowers to celebrate this day the right way.

Red Roses for All Saints on the 1st of November

In many countries, the color red is a symbol of love. Rose Red Naomi! is the perfect rose to say love never ends. Belgian designer Annick Mertens made a cemetery design and wrote a blog about it, in which she says about the Porta Nova Red Naomi rose:

"For me, it’s a rose you can use mono, and that gives power to your flowerpiece. To honor someone special on All Saints' Day, the rose with its many petals opens up unexpectedly and beautifully to remember with a big heart the life of that special someone."


Porta Nova Rose Red Naomi All Saints


Already a thousand years ago people used branches and flowers to weave a bed to carry them away and say goodbye to their deceased. Now All Saints' Day, which is celebrated and commemorated on the 1st of November, is a day that many people visit their loved ones' graves at the cemetery and a great opportunity to place special flowers that have special meanings.


Design by Annick Martens using Rose Red Naomi


Flowers, as every year, will be seen all around graves and in bouquets to honor the lives of the dead. All Saints' Day is coming and you might as well begin planning what significant flowers you'll want to have around to celebrate and remember your loved ones.


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