This weekend has been all about Toussaint, a Catholic holiday honoring all Saints. It is a time when French pay respect to their deceased relatives. All Saints’ Day, the 1st of November, sees families gathering to visit cemeteries to clean and decorate tombs. And they decorate them mainly with chrysanthemums.
The tradition of using chrysanthemums is a relatively recent one, dating from 1919 when the then President, Raymond Poincaré, declared that all war memorials should be decorated with floral tributes. As one of the rare flowers still in bloom in November it became the flower of choice for cemeteries, with hundreds of thousands of widows laying blooms at their fallen husbands’ memorials. The chrysanthemum is now known as the widow’s flower and is forever associated with Toussaint and death. With such connotations, chrysanthemums are not usually given at other occasions and should be avoided as a gift – many’s the time an innocent foreigner has unwittingly caused offence (or at least surprise) by offering a hostess these colourful flowers!
The chrysanthemum is the most sold flower in the world and each year around 25 million pots are placed on French graves on the 1st of November, jollying up cemeteries all over the country. Particularly when placed together in great bunches I think they look lovely and happily the chrysanthemum isn’t associated with death all over the world. In fact, in direct contrast in Asia where it originates from, it is the flower of joy, elegance and eternity.
Do you have any traditions surrounding a particular flower where you are from? I’d love to hear from you.
Why not PIN this for later!
Image of flower shop courtesy of The French Village Diaries