Today is the 1st of November, a bank holiday here in France called La Toussaint (All Saints Day). Families gather together today to visit cemeteries in rememberance of the passing of loved ones, and the tradition is to decorate the graves with chrysanthemums, light candles and reflect. Chrysanths are everywhere here, supermarkets and village shops are full of them. They are so associated with death that aside from being referred to as “The Widows Flower”, it’s a social blunder to bring a bunch of these as a hostess gift to Margot’s cheese and wine shin-dig. Stick with a box of Matchmakers.
They were chosen because they were in season in October, bonus, and also because they are relatively hardy through the winter and need little care, they lend themselves well to the notion of immortality.
The tradition these days has its root in Cathololicism, some say to divert attention away from those pesky fire-starting Pagans and their fun filled Samhain shenanigans. It began in modern terms on the first anniversary of Armistice day in 1919, and these coloured flowers can be seen everywhere in beautifully tended cemeteries across France. This is something we Brits could learn a lot from, I wish our grave-yards were as well tended and colourful. Here if you have purchased a family plot, you have a legal duty of care to keeping it maintained and decorated with flowers, another good thing in my opinion.
At midnight, families will eat a special meal of milk, black grain, bacon, pancakes and cider. When I go, I positively encourage the bacon, but I’ll let you replace the rest with cheese, and Ben & Jerry’s Phish Food .Just saying.