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All Saints vs. Halloween - when and what to celebrate?

In recent years, Halloween, as seen in American movies, has conquered the world, and more and more families and communities in our country have started carving pumpkins, dressing up and trick or treating. Regardless, the traditions associated with All Saints' Day (and All Souls’ Day) continue to live on in parallel.

Let's see the dates

31 October: this is when the Anglo-Saxon Halloween is celebrated in many countries around the world. 


1 November: All Saints' Day, which is a Christian holiday.


2 November: All Souls’ Day in the Christian world. 

Where does it come from?

The name Halloween is an abbreviation of the English term All Hallows' Eve, which means the day before All Saints’ Day. For the Celts, summer ended at that time, cattle were herded from the pastures into the stables, and the new year was celebrated at that time – worshiping the Sun God and the Lord of the Dead at the same time.


All Saints' Day (in Latin: festum omnium sanctorum) is the day of remembrance for all saved souls in the Catholic Church, while Protestants remember the dead at this time. In the 4th century, the feast of All Saints was celebrated on the first Sunday after Pentecost, and the Orthodox Christian Church still celebrates it on this day.


All Souls’ Day has a much later origin: Abbot Saint Odilo of Cluny introduced it as a memorial day in 998 in the Benedictine houses belonging to the Benedictine Abbey of Cluny. And the Catholic Church fully adopted it from the beginning of the 14th century.

What do we do at this time?

According to the belief of Celtic priests, the Druids, Halloween is one of the magical days of the year when the souls of the dead can walk freely among the living. For this reason, the fire was put out in the houses at this time, so that the wandering souls would not occupy the bodies of the living, and they tried to scare the dead in creepy clothes, which is where the tradition of dressing up comes from, although this is now done just for fun. According to medieval beliefs, sorcerers performed their rituals on this day because at this time the spiritual and physical worlds were within touching distance of each other. From the 8th century the belief spread that lanterns "adorned" with distorted features would protect travellers from evil spirits, so today we carve pumpkins with faces as grim as possible. Halloween took root in America in the middle of the 19th century, when hundreds of thousands of people emigrated from Ireland during the Great Famine and brought their customs and legends with them. The lanterns were originally made from turnips, carrots or beetroots, and pumpkins started being used when the holiday took root in Norther America. Today, Halloween mainly captures the imagination of children. They put on various costumes and wander from house to house asking for sweets with the refrain of ‘trick or treat”. On the longest night of the year, adults also organise costume parties and parades, and jack-o’-lantern carving contests or festivals are already held in some towns in Hungary. 

On All Saints' Day, it is a customary to tidy up and decorate the graves of our loved ones with flowers, and we light candles for the dead. Candle light symbolises eternal light, and the Catholic Church's ritual of reciting the All Saints' Litany and blessing new gravesites at the "great cross of cemeteries" is still practiced today. On this day, in some regions of Hungary, bells were rung for the dead of the family, while in other places food was given to the poor, the judge was elected, and servants were hired. There were places where it was believed that (just like among the Celts) the dead would rise from the grave on this night, so they were also served at the family feast and lights were lit in every room so that the "returnees" could find their way around the house. According to some beliefs, the graves had to be beautified and illuminated so that the souls that had been freed could find their way back to their "residence" and should not disturb the living. All Saints' Day has been a public holiday in Hungary since 2000, and a mandatory church holiday again since 2013.

On All Souls’ Day we originally remember the dead, our deceased loved ones who have not found salvation yet. For those who died in the grace of God but still have to pay the price of sin and must be cleansed before God. It is a great spiritual consolation for those left behind that they can intercede for them at this time: they can do something for the salvation of their departed relatives on this day with prayer, penance and a holy mass.