Did you know there's more to the day after Halloween than performing a party post-mortem while nursing a candy hangover? Well there is. A lot. Within Latin American cultures, November 1 is known as Día De Los Muertos (or the Day of the Dead), while in Christianity, it's All Saints' Day. As the name would suggest, this holiday celebrates the saints of the Church, but there's a reason it falls so close to Halloween.
It's believed that All Saints' Day played a major role in Christianity's expansion into formerly Pagan Celtic regions. Early Christians established a holiday around the same time as Samhain, the Pagan sabbat from which Halloween stems, to increase the Church's presence in citizens' lives. What would become All Saints' Day used to be called All Hallows' Day, and Samhain was referred to as All Hallows' Eve (and, later, Halloween).
Although Christians around the world observe it, All Saints' Day carries particular significance within Catholicism: If you attended Catholic school growing up, you have even gotten the day off (or at least an early dismissal) on November 1 every year. The expectation is that, rather than attending school or work, observant Catholics will spend the day at mass. Liturgies for All Saints' Day may emphasize the sacrifices saints made in the name of their faith and pay tribute to their martyrdom. But, in general, the day can also be spent reflecting generally on the acts of all the known saints in Heaven.
Other denominations of Christianity, including the United Methodist Church, spend All Saints' Day mourning loved ones and members of their congregation who have passed away. People may attend services or visit graveyards to honor the dead. Depending on the denomination, All Saints' Day won't necessarily be observed on November 1 but on the first Sunday of November, instead.
Much like the Pagan traditions it preceded, All Saints' Day encourages people to send their love to those who have passed on, from saints who died for God to one's own relatives. (Heads up, we'll see this theme again this month with the arrival of the full moon.) Whether you have the day off and plan to attend Mass or are just learning about All Saints' Day for the first time, it's never a bad idea to pay your respects to the deceased — and even stop by and leave some flowers at a relative's grave.