Halloween in France

Chrysanthemums, Toussaint

Chrysanthemums, the Flowers of ‘Toussaint’. In pastel by Amanda Tamsin

Around this time of the year in France, people don’t talk much about things that go bump in the night. Neither do they dress up much dressing up and eat pumpkin. They still don’t really celebrate Halloween in the way that we do in the UK or the United States.  Nevertheless, on 31st October,  children are beginning to wear costumes and trick or treat.  Sometimes they manage to gather delicious home-baked gifts. You might also find the odd eccentric grown-up painting their face red, both of these being happenings in the Burgundy village where Frédéric originates from.  This place is also perhaps my spiritual home…

La Toussaint/All Saints’ Day

A Day for Everyone

Going forward to ‘La Toussaint’…  ‘Tous les Saints’, meaning ‘All the Saints’ is the origin of this name. This is very much like ‘All Saints’ Day’ in the UK, which is also on 1st November.  Yet in France, La Toussaint, is a significant day for all.  For those wishing to observe the religious tradition of honouring the Saints and others in the celestial realm, at the beginning of the day, there is the opportunity to pray and hear hymns at ‘La Messe de la Toussaint’.

Tombs in flower

Then whole families, which include all generations, as well as agnostics and atheists, visit the graveyards. These can often be found outside town.  People place chrysanthemums, the majestic flowers of ‘Toussaint’, on the graves of their loved ones.  In fact, visitors can be put flowers on whoever’s grave they wish.  Frédéric recounts how he would accompany his grandmother to the graveyard on Toussaint.  They used to bring a wheelbarrow full of varied blooms to distribute.

Beautiful Blooms

These chrysanthemums are vibrant, living plants in pots.  They symbolise the positivity and even joy of the occasion, which some root in a belief that there exists a powerful spiritual bond between the living and the dead. According to them, this connection is especially strong at this time.  The windy autumnal weather brings another element to the festivities…  Families make frequent visits to the graveyard during this period, due to the chrysanthemum pots blowing over.  Almost as though something is calling for descendents to keep honouring their ancestors and to celebrate their celebrate their lives again and again…

Contrast this with a festival on new life and fertility, as in my post on ‘Fête de l’Ours’.