While the rest of the world awaits Halloween on October 31st, France is more excited about La Toussaint
instead. But what is La Toussaint, exactly? Well, you might recognize it by its English name instead, which is All Saints' Day. It's held every November 1st and is one of the most celebrated holidays in all of France. Arguably in the whole world too. It's just that Halloween, or All Hallow's Eve, has become more popular and commercialized that it has somewhat overtaken All Saints' Day. Nevertheless, the French have some pretty fascinating traditions during La Toussaint. They honor the dead and reunite with families, for example, as well as many more!
Honoring The Dead
Although La Toussaint is All Saints' Day, not All Souls' Day which is on November 2, most of the French simply switch the two. So most of them honor the dead and visit their loved ones' graves on La Toussaint instead of Le Jour des Morts
(All Souls' Day). In fact, they can hardly distinguish between the two anymore. Both holidays in France
have become so synergized that when one refers to 'La Toussaint
,' they're really talking about both days. Some would even go as far as to include Halloween under the 'La Toussaint
' umbrella as well.
Decorating Loved Ones' Graves
So what does La Toussaint really look like? Does it involve jack-o-lanterns and spider webs like in the US? Or colorful skulls like in Día de Los Muertos
, one of the most famous holidays in Mexico
? Well, the truth isn't something as festive as that. Though the French decorate the graves of their loved ones during La Toussaint, it's not as festive as those in Mexico. Candles, flowers, and wreaths are enough. Perhaps there would be those who take it to the next level, but in essence, the decorations are merely expressions of their love and remembrance of the dearly departed.
Source: Wikimedia Commons/ CC-BY-SA 4.0/ Florian Pépellin
Gathering Up All The Chrysanthemums
As for the French flower of choice for La Toussaint, it has to be the chrysanthemum! Go to any cemetery in France during this time of the year and you'll find countless graves decorated with colorful chrysanthemums. The flower has long been linked with La Toussaint, dating back all the way to the end of the First World War. At that time, the French government asked the citizens to commemorate the fallen soldiers by laying flowers on their graves. Their flora of choice? The chrysanthemum, mostly because it has a long flowering period. Moreover, in the language of flowers, the chrysanthemum symbolized love and long life.
Reuniting with Family
Since it's a holiday, La Toussaint also serves as a great day for the French to reunite with family. Of course, there's their reunion with their deceased loved ones, but they also meet up with their living family and friends too. Many of them reunite at the cemetery, such as siblings who live far away from each other visiting their parents' graves. While some simply meet after going to the cemetery. They host big feasts in celebration of the holiday and it all becomes one grand family affair. This is what makes La Toussaint an oddly festive holiday despite its true meaning.
And during these big family feasts, what do they eat? Well, there's a good chance that there will be potatoes on the menu. Just like the chrysanthemum, the potato also has a connection to La Toussaint. It was around this time that the French used to celebrate the potato harvest. Back in the olden days, families will be working hard in the fields, especially in the French countryside
. They'd gather up all the potatoes that have sprouted and cook a lot of them for themselves and to share with others. Of course, this tradition has dwindled down over time but many still follow it to this day.
Indulging in Lots of Candies
There's another thing that the French are scarfing down during La Touissant: candies! Since Halloween has become heavily commercialized here in France, this is the best time to buy as many sweets as you want. From traditional French candies
to more popular confections, there are lots of them for sale around La Touissant and at more affordable prices too! They're usually used for trick or treating in parts of the country that celebrate Halloween. And those who still have candies come La Touissant simply serve them as after-dinner treats. What's not to love?
While the rest of the world celebrates Halloween and All Saints' Day, France has La Toussaint to look forward to. They even have many fascinating traditions that make this one of their most highly anticipated holidays!