Is All Saints Day a Holy Day of Obligation?

Saints in Stained Glass
Saints in Stained Glass.  Getty Images

What is a Holy Day of Obligation?

In the Roman Catholic branch of the Christian faith, certain holidays are set aside as those on which Catholics are expected to attend Mass services. These are known as Holy Days of Obligation. In the United States, there are six such days that are observed. However, in the United States and other countries, the bishops have received permission from the Vatican to abrogate (temporarily waive) the requirement for Catholics to attend Mass services on certain Holy Days of Obligation when those Holy Days fall on either Saturday or Monday. Because of this, some Catholics have become confused about whether certain Holy Days are, in fact, Holy Days of Obligation or not. All Saints Day (November 1) is one such Holy Day.​

All Saints Day is classified as a Holy Day of Obligation. However, when it falls on a Saturday or a Monday, the obligation to attend Mass is abrogated. For instance, All Saints Day fell on Saturday in 2014 and Monday in 2010. In these years, Catholics in the United States and in some other countries were not required to attend Mass. All Saints Day will again be on a Monday in 2022 and on a Saturday in 2025; and once again, Catholics will be excused from Mass on those days, if they wish. (Catholics in other countries may still be required to attend mass on All Saints Day—check with your priest or your diocese to determine whether the obligation remains in effect in your country.)

Of course, even in those years when we aren't required to attend, celebrating All Saints Day by attending Mass is a wonderful way for Catholics to honor the saints, who constantly intercede with God on our behalf.

All Saints Day in the Eastern Orthodox Church

Western Catholics all celebrate All Saints Day on November 1, the day after All Hallows Eve (Halloween), and since November 1 moves through the days of the week as the years progress, there are many years in which attendance at mass is required. However, the Eastern Orthodox Church, along with eastern branches of the Roman Catholic Church, celebrates All Saints Day on the first Sunday after Pentecost. Thus, there is never any doubt that All Saints Day is a Holy Day of Obligation in the Eastern church since it always falls on a Sunday.