Erin Hagen

All Saints' Day in Paris: Mark the Day

The Feast of All Saints, also known as All Saints' Day, is a Catholic holiday that honours all of the saints and martyrs, and their ascension into heaven. It is celebrated annually on November 1, and is a holy day of obligation for all practising Catholics. Since there are over 10,000 official saints, that's a lot of celebrating packed into one day! In this article, we will explore the origins of the day, as well as recommend where to commemorate All Saints' Day in Paris.

Origins of All Saint's Day

While there is still some debate about the holiday's origins, its commemoration dates from the 4th century. At first, it was celebrated on May 13th. The feast day later changed when Pope Gregory III transferred the relics of Catholic saints and martyrs to the newly dedicated St. Peter's Basilica in the 8th century, on November 1. In 835, Pope Gregory IV also added his seal of approval for the date change.

What Makes a Saint?

What makes a full-fledged saint in the eyes of the Catholic Church? A saint must meet all of the following conditions:

  • after the individual's death, a mourning period of 5 years must be observed
  • they must be a servant of god
  • they must show heroic virtue and good deeds
  • verified miracles
  • canonization


Samhain was celebrated by Celts for thousands of years, and there are some that still observe it. On the eve of October 31-November 1, the feast gave thanks for the bountiful harvest, and acknowledged the approaching winter months. On Samhain, the Celts believed that the veil between the spirit world and that of the living was lifted. Religious ceremonies took place, and offerings of food were left outside of homes for the spirits. It is interesting to note that the Catholic Church moved All Saints' Day to coincide with the Celtic celebration during the Dark Ages.

All Saints' Day in France

In France, All Saints' Day is known as 'la Toussaint', and is a public holiday. French students usually have October 19 - November 4 off school. Also, since All Saints' Day is a holiday and All Souls' Day is not, many people visit the graves of their deceased loved ones on November 1. This time of year, France's cemeteries are adorned with wreaths, flowers, and brightly coloured chrysanthemums. It is quite a sight to behold!

Where to celebrate All Saint's Day in Paris

There are 139 Catholic churches and chapels in Paris, 85 of which belong to the French State. If you are interested in attending mass for All Saints' Day, please click the Paris Catholic diocese website link here. Each church is listed by arrondissement.

p.s. After all of that pious celebrating perhaps even the saints and martyrs would approve of a little treat? For some of the best Parisian patisserie recommendations, please click here.

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