I always look forward to All Saints Day, as a holiday to remember the saints of the Church. While fully understanding the deeper significance of the holiday, I find that in order to explain the holiday to my Protestant friends, it is helpful to use secular holidays and practices as analogies.
I think most Christians would agree that if we are to have true heroes, they should be good moral examples, and even Christian. Therefore, All Saints Day is kind of like a “let’s remember all of our Christians heroes” day, kind of like Veteran’s Day or Presidents Day, when Americans remember those who fought bravely for our country.
I have said this before, but it is worth repeating. Many Christians have a problem with Catholics carrying around images of saints, placing statues around our houses, or celebrating saints days. Yet, how many of these Christians see no problem with having images of the Beatles or Lebron James on their walls, and even statues of the same folks (think bobbleheads)? How many have elaborate, cherished, rituals, related to game-day or concert celebrations?
I have no problems with the Beatles, Lebron, or celebrating a football game to the fullest extent possible (even though the teams I like aren’t doing so well this year!). However, I think a person is confused if they suggest an image of a saint is idolatry, while an image of a sports star is harmless. I think a person is similarly confused if he or she criticizes elaborate saint day festivities while insisting on the same level of elaboration for a secular event.
However, I think there is an evangelization opportunity here, which is to say, people like ritual and celebration, and as a culture, we don’t always offer a chance for people to experience ritual and celebration. A lot of people are unaware that the Church gives us chances to celebrate Christian heroes and events every day of the year. Christmas comes once a year. Ohio State football lasts a few months. Secular festivities seem few and far between, and sometimes they are celebrated in such an empty way, that people crave something deeper. We have this deeper form of celebration, and All Saints Day is a perfect example of it.