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All Saints Day

All Saints Day 2017 and 2018

All Saints Day on November 1st, along with All Souls Day on November 2nd, are major fall holidays in Hungary.

20171 NovWedAll Saints' Day
20181 NovThuAll Saints' Day

All Saints Day is a highly religious celebration, kept by Catholics and Protestants alike in Hungary, that is meant to honour all those Christian saints who have no special “saint day” of their own on the church calendar. All Souls Day is reserved as a time to pray for the souls of the dead who have not yet been glorified and allowed to enter Heaven. In Hungary, All Souls Day has become less of a church holiday and more of a public memorial day.

All Saints Day has been observed by Christians since the 3rd or 4th Century A.D., but it was not made an official holy day until A.D. 835, when Pope Gregory IV declared it to be one. The date of November 1st seems to have been chosen as a means of replacing the existing pagan holiday related to the fate of the dead. It has been observed in Hungary since the land was Christianised in the early 11th Century.

In Hungary, All Saints Day is called “Halottak Napja,” meaning the “Day of the Dead.” It is a time when people remember their dearly departed by putting flowers on their grave sites. Yellow chrysanthemums, decorative wreaths, red, lit candles, and a special kind of lamp are often used. Some even leave food offerings, especially bread and honey-covered scones, near the graves of the dead. All Saints and All Souls Day are the top flower sales days in Hungary, and vendors will sell them to you right at the cemetery gate.

Special church services will be held to remember the saints, and ministers will often hold prayer services in the graveyards. Roman Catholics hold that by prayer and penance they can quicken the release of souls trapped in purgatory so they can enter into Heavenly bliss.

There are many superstitious traditions related to All Saints Day in Hungary. Some believe that candles can both give warmth to the souls of the dead and light their way so they can find their graves again after being out of them. Some also leave a light on at home while at the graveyard, thinking their deceased loved ones may be visiting the house at that time. When the church bells ring, that is the time when the souls make their way to people’s homes. A special place at the dinner table may even be prepared for them.

All Saints Day is also a time when food and other gifts are given to the poor and homeless, many of whom wait at the cemeteries to receive a donation.

Should you be in the land of Hungary for All Saints Day, here are some ideas on what to do:

  • Visit the most famous and “decorative” cemetery in Budapest, the Kerepesi Cemetery. There are ancient wood graves dating to the days of the marauding Magyars (Hungarian tribes), boat carvings meant to help navigate “the river of death,” and numerous graves of famous Hungarians from throughout the nation’s history.
  • Visit the Farkasreti Cemetery, also in Budapest, where you will also find many famous Hungarians laid to rest. There are especially many artists, writers, and musicians. There are even special sections, such as “Musician’s Lane.” The cemetery is easy to access since the tram is right across from the entrance.
  • On October 31st, attend Halloween festivities. Halloween is not a true Hungarian holiday, but it is gaining in popularity nonetheless. In Budapest, consider attending such events as the Pumpkin Lantern Festival at Heroes Square and the Halloween Festival and costume contest in Vorosmarty Square.

There is much to do in Hungary on and near All Saints Day, and the tourist will not be disappointed.