Celebrated on November 1, All Saints Day is both a religious and a national holiday in Italy.
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This is a very old holiday, with traditions that reach deep into time, back to the very earliest Christians. On this day, the faithful attend church services and contemplate the Saints, especially those martyred for their faith and those that don’t have their own day on the Catholic calendar. Also honored on this day are those who, while they are not officially saints, have died for their faith.
All Saints Day is celebrated with the family gatherings that are so important a part of Italian culture, as well as the feasting that is a part of almost every family get-together. In some regions, small gifts are also exchanged among family members.
While All Saints Day and All Souls Day, which falls on November 2, are separate and distinct holidays, there is some connection between the two and, in some regions, some overlap in traditions. So, in some regions of Italy, bringing flowers, particularly chrysanthemums, to the grave sites of family members are a part of All Saints Day traditions.
Some regions have public festivals during which the saints are honored. There may be parades and participating school children may dress up as the saint day that their birthday falls upon or a favorite saint. Businesses and government offices buildings are closed on this day, allowing for families to share this important holiday, dedicated to memorializing the saints and the instances throughout history in which ordinary people chose to sacrifice their lives for their Christian faith. It is a holiday both solemn and joyous.