Chrysanthemums and All Souls’ Day

As noted in another post, Halloween is barely noticeable in France. The same cannot be said of All Saints’ Day, La Toussaint (November 1st) and All Souls’ Day, the Day of the Dead, the Jour des Morts (November 2.) La Toussaint is a national holiday.

This is a time for families to bring fresh flowers, mostly chrysanthemums, to the tombs of their departed loved ones, much as in the 19th century painting below. Cheerful mum blossoms are everywhere in Paris now.

I remember how surprised I was when I moved to California to note that these flowers have no funeral connotation in the United States. They grew to amazing masses of pink, red and gold in my Los Angeles garden (indeed chrysanthemum means “gold blossom” in Greek). But in France they are the flowers of the dead.

Toussaint Emile Friant

Painting: La Toussaint, by Emile Friant, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nancy.

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