La Toussaint (All Saints’ Day) Posted by Elizabeth Schmermund on Oct 24, 2016 in Culture
As Tim mentioned in a recent post, Halloween traditionally wasn’t celebrated in France and has only been exported to France is recent years from American traditions. Even when I was living in France around eight years ago, you wouldn’t see children trick-or-treat in the streets of Paris. Rather, some friends would hold small Halloween parties and bars could have Halloween-themed nights. (Many people in France would indeed not enjoy being disturbed at night by children yelling, “frisandes ou bêtises”–the French equivalent of “trick or treat”–because it hasn’t yet entered French culture!)
However, a national holiday that is very much observed by the French is related to Halloween and celebrated the following day (November 1). La Toussaint, meaning All Saints’ Day, is a Catholic holiday and schools and banks are typically closed in commemoration of the holiday. La Toussaint is a day that commemorates people who have passed. Traditionally, November 1 (All Saints’ Day) would honor public figures who had died while November 2 (All Souls’ Day) would honor close friends and relatives who had passed. However, because La Toussaint is a day off, families traditionally combine these days of remembrance into one.
Typically, La Toussaint is commemorated by bringing flowers–most commonly chrysanthemums–to the graves of lost loved ones. Religiously observant people might attend a special church service or light a candle in honor of a loved one who is no longer with them. Walking around the streets of France, you can usually see chrysanthemums being sold in stores, florist shops, and out as decoration.The tradition of laying chrysanthemums on graves for All Saints’ Day began following World War I, when the president requested on the first anniversary of the end of the war that soldiers who had died fighting for the country be commemorated by laying flowers on their graves. Chrysanthemums were the only flowers available at that time of year and so became part of the tradition.
If you’d prefer to celebrate Halloween rather than just La Toussaint, however, you can find some good celebrations in large cities, like Paris, in American bars or diners. Halloween parties can be advertised in English-language magazines such as Fusac. However, the city that has most adopted Halloween traditions is not Paris, but Limoges. Limoges has hosted Halloween parades every year since 1996 and it is supposedly a sight to see!
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