CHIÈVRES, Belgium -- A public holiday in Belgium, All Saints' Day, Nov. 1, honors all Christian saints. Belgians often celebrate Toussaint, its French name, by placing chrysanthemums on the graves of dead relatives as All Souls Day, Nov. 2, is not a public holiday.
At this period of time, chrysanthemums are available in all flower shops, in all varieties and colors. It is one of the few flowering plants that flourish at this time and doesn't need a lot of care.
In many countries, such as Italy, France and Portugal, people place a lighted candle on the graves of deceased relatives. Filipinos traditionally observe this day by visiting the family dead and cleaning and repairing their tombstones. The first day of the Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico, All Saints' Day honors deceased children and infants. Although not a public holiday in the Netherlands, All Saints' Day is observed on the first Sunday in November there.
The first All Saints' Day occurred May 13, 609, when Pope Boniface IV accepted the Pantheon in Rome as a gift from Byzantine Emperor Phocas. The pope dedicated the day as a holiday to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the martyrs. Things turned bad for Phocas the following year, and in 610 he was beheaded by Heraclius who usurped the throne.
In 835, Pope Gregory III moved the holiday to Nov. 1 and expanded it to include the honoring of all saints. In Roman Catholicism, All Saints' Day is a holy day of obligation on which Catholics are encouraged to attend Mass.