The first of November always makes me think of Swedish All Saints’ Day and the lovely way it is commemorated there. According to Po Tidholm & Agneta Lilja, of Celebrating the Swedish Way: “In the year 731 AD, 1 November was designated a day of remembrance for saints of the church who had no days of their own.”
All Saints’ Day in Swedish History
Of the history of this date, they write:
From the 11th century, 2 November was dedicated to all the dead, of whatever standing, and was called All Souls’ Day. It was widely observed by the populace, with requiems and bell-ringing, but was abolished with the arrival of the Reformation. In 1772, Swedish All Saints’ Day was moved to the first Sunday in November and in 1953 to the Saturday between 31 October and 6 November.
In the 1900s, however, people began putting lighted candles on the graves of the departed on All Saints’ Day. This custom originated with wealthy families in towns and cities. But after the World War II, it spread throughout the country. Churches also began holding services of light to mark the day.
All Saints’ Day commemorated in 2010 at Skogskyrkogården, an historic Stockholm cemetery.
Swedish All Saints’ Day Today
“The countless points of light from the candles and lanterns placed on graves form beautiful patterns in the snow and lend a special feel to the landscape. People also lay flowers and wreaths on graves on All Saints’ Day.
Until recently, shops and stores closed to mark the occasion. Although this is no longer the case everywhere, most Swedes take the day off, and those who don’t visit cemeteries usually stay home with family and cook an ambitious meal of some kind. Many churches organise concerts to celebrate All Saints’ Day.”
My Swedish ancestors are mostly far in the past, but I hope what graves there are have been marked today.