All Saints’ Day / Alla Helgons Dag
All Saints’ Day is a day of recognition of those loved ones whom you may have lost. It is a day that has its beginnings in AD 731. During that time, it was November 1st that was the All Saints’ Day. It was then a day of recognition and remembrance for saints of the church , who at that time, had no special day of their own. From the beginning of the 11th century, however, November 2nd became the day to remember all of the dead, not only the saints. This was known as All Souls Day. This day was a well celebrated day in Sweden but with the arrival of the Reformation, all of the requiems and bell ringing was abolished.
This day has undergone a multitude of changes. In 1772 All Saints’ Day was now on the first Sunday in November. Then in 1953, this day of remembrance was once again designated a new slot, between Oct. 31 and november 6th.
During this time, traditionally, family members would lay beautiful wreaths resembling Christmas wreaths on the graves and leave lit candles to burn for a few days. I often wondered why they would have, what I thought were Christmas wreaths out in the shops everywhere, so long before Christmas. Then when Christmas time came, there were no wreaths to be found anywhere. The wreaths were used to decorate the graves on All Saints’ Day.
When I married my Swedish husband in the United States, I was unaware of this tradition in Sweden. It came as quite a surprise to the Swedish priest officiating at our wedding to find out that as part of our ceremony I requested two candle lightings. One was to unite our two families and the other was to remember our loved ones how had passed on. Our November 4th wedding actually fell right within the All Saints’ Day period.
Old tradition has it that this day was also seen as the beginning of winter and with it came the winter darkness. Not only should all the work in the fields be done by this day, but the many candles lit in graveyards would add light to the darkness. Today, it is not unusual to find people setting out lit candles at home to remember their lost loved ones. Today as people move around within the country, not everyone is near the church graves of their loved ones, so the lit candles at home is acceptable.
We have lit candles for our lost loved ones, by one of our large trees in front of our home at Gullringstorp.