It’s quite interesting to learn how various solemnities and feast days are celebrated in the Catholic Church around the world, in particular those days that we call Holy Days of Obligation, some of which are moveable feasts, that is, the date changes (Easter, for example), whereas some feasts retain the date year after year (All Saints, November 1, Christmas December 25, etc.).

From the USCCB: “In addition to Sunday, the days to be observed as holy days of obligation in the Latin Rite dioceses of the United States of America, in conformity with canon 1246, are as follows:

January 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God
Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter, the solemnity of the Ascension
August 15, the solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
November 1, the solemnity of All Saints
December 8, the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception
December 25, the solemnity of the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Interestingly enough, here’s what I learned about Hawaii:

From USCCB website: In a decree dated March 23, 1992, the (then) Bishop of Honolulu designated Christmas and the Immaculate Conception as the only two Holydays of Obligation for the State of Hawaii. This implements the indult received from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments on May 26, 1990, and the subsequent nihil obstat from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops allowing Hawaii to legislate on this matter in accord with the policies of the Episcopal Conference of the Pacific (CEPAC)

Honolulu Bishop Larry Silva told me the diocese does have only two holy days of obligation for the reasons cited.  The Presbyteral Council recently discussed this and decided to leave things as they are, but special Masses will be offered on the days the rest of the U.S. celebrates as holy days of obligation.  A memo was sent to all parishes to remind the pastors of the importance of celebrating these days and making Masses available at convenient times.

I’ve not done a study on this but I am sure that the holy days of obligation might be celebrated in different ways around the world, according to individual Episcopal conferences, as we have seen with the USCCB.


November 1, the feast of All Saints and November 2, All Souls Day are important days for Christians, and for Catholics in particular, especially November 1 as it is a precept of the Church, that is, obligatory Mass attendance.

Halloween, of course, has become the big thing in many cultures now, including Italy even though the word Halloween derives from All Hallows Eve, referring to celebrations of the hallowed or holy, that is, the saints, on the day before their feast day, November 1. Orange and black are the colors here, as they are in the U.S., restaurants offer special menus and are decorated for this seasonal day, and the occasional child can be seen in a costume, although the really big day of the year for children and costumes is Mardi Gras, just before Lent.

It is tradition at the Vatican for Popes on November 1 to celebrate Mass for the Solemnity of All Saint’s at the Campo Verano cemetery in Rome and, on the following day, November 2, to lead a prayer service in the Vatican Grottoes for all deceased Popes. Both days are holidays as well as holy days for Vatican employees.

Vatican grottoes –

Verano –

This year, however, a bit of a change for the Holy Father.

Pope Francis will pay homage to war victims during a visit to the American military cemetery in Nettuno, south of Rome, on All Souls Day, November 2. There, at 3:15 in the afternoon, he will celebrate Mass for all war dead, marking the annual Catholic tradition of mourning the departed. This is a new departure for Pope Francis, who normally says Mass for All Souls’ in Roman cemeteries.

Nettuno –

Later that afternoon the pontiff will visit the Fosse Ardeatine to pray for the 335 victims killed on the site by the then occupying Nazi forces in March 1944. The mass killing was in retaliation to a partisan attack on a column of marching German policemen on Via Rasella, near Piazza Barberini in central Rome – 10 Italians were to be killed for every one German solder killed. Subsequent to the massacre,, the Ardeatine Caves site (Fosse Ardeatine) was declared a Memorial Cemetery and National Monument open daily to visitors. Every year, on the anniversary of the slaughter, a solemn State commemoration is held at the monument in honor of the fallen.

November 1 is such an important day for Italians that newspapers – the paper variety and online – publish special inserts on how to get to a city’s cemeteries, where to park cars, what shuttle buses are available within cemeteries, etc. Cemetery opening hours are usually longer in the October 29 to November 5 period and they are posted online and at the cemeteries, etc.

Also published are the hours and routes of the “C” busses (“C” for ‘cimitero’ or cemetery). In Rome there are 12 cemeteries and each one has special rules and regulations and opening hours. The larger ones will also have free shuttles buses (because no cars will be allowed) to take people to the graves of loved ones. In Rome’s largest cemetery, Verano, 16 stops have been programmed for these buses.

An estimated 1 million people are expected to visit Rome’s cemeteries in the weeklong period dedicated to the deceased. The city always make a concerted effort at this time of year to clean cemeteries of trash, to repair walkways and even headstones and to do some serious gardening.

Visitors too will clean tombs, bring fresh flowers and entire families will meet to mourn their dearly departed as well as to celebrate their lives. Family members then usually go out for lunch or dinner, sometimes even taking a picnic lunch along (though not for eating in the cemeteries – even though that is what the very first Christians did when they gathered at burial grounds or in the catacombs).

One Rome paper a few years back published a survey on the cost of funerals, saying “there is some meager consolation for those in mourning in the capital of Rome because a funeral there costs the least” of all cities questioned for the survey. I don’t have the figures for 2017 but in recent years average funeral costs ran about 6,000-8,000 Euros, with cremation costing between 3,000-4,000 Euros. These prices are supposed to include a walnut coffin with zinc interior (except for cremation, of course), flowers, the burial and documents. However, say newspapers, the best bargain is still a funeral paid for by the city, as they cost several thousand Euros less.

The price of flowers soars for about a week every year during this season, but that does not stop Italians from buying in large quantities. And, as I learned the first year I was in Italy, chrysanthymums are the flower of choice for tombs, for the deceased! You do not bring these flowers to people when you go to their home for dinner nor do you – heaven forbid, as I learned the hard way!!– bring them to people in the hospitals.


– by Father Fr. Stephen F. Torraco for EWTN’s Catholic Q&A:

During the first three centuries of Christianity the Church frequently had to operate “underground” due to the persecutions of the Roman state against her. During these periods there were many martyrs who died for their faith in Jesus Christ. The most renowned of these were honored locally by the preservation of the relics (if available) and by the celebration of the anniversary of their death, as a feast in honor of their birth into eternal life. As time passed, neighboring dioceses would honor each others martyrs and even exchange relics for veneration, the way the first century Christians kept the clothes and handkerchiefs touched by St. Paul (Acts 19:12).

At the end of the third century and the beginning of the fourth the most vicious of all persecutions occurred, that of the emperor Diocletian (284-305). The martyrs became so many that in some places it was impossible to commemorate even the most significant of them. The need for a common feast of all martyrs was becoming evident. This common feast became a reality in some places, but on various dates, as early as the middle of the fourth century. As far as Roman practice goes it is known that on 13 May 609 or 610, Pope Boniface IV consecrated the ancient Roman Pantheon as a temple of the Blessed Virgin and All Martyrs. Beginning with Gregory III (731-741) the celebration of a feast of All Saints was commemorated at St. Peters on November 1. Gregory IV (827-844) extended this feast to the entire Church.

The feast of All Souls developed more gradually, first with a monastic celebration of their departed on October 1st. This seems to have occurred first in Germany in the 900s. The patronage of St. Odilio of Cluny extended this feast to other monasteries, first of his own Order, then to Benedictines and others, from where it spread to dioceses, including Rome. It was only in 1915 that the special privilege of three Masses was granted to all priests by Pope Benedict XV.