Toussaint - all Saints Day
A very important date in the French calendar is November 1st, which is called La Toussaint, or All Saints Day. In fact, the whole of the week leading up to November 1st is often referred to as La Toussaint as people get ready for the day itself.
An Important Public HolidayNovember 1st is always a public holiday. As in the UK, although not nearly to the same extent, more places are open on public holidays now, but La Toussaint really is the exception, with very few places open on this day, except for florists. Certainly no supermarkets or offices are open on November 1st.
The reason that florists are open on La Toussaint is that certain flowers play an important part in the celebration of the day. As perhaps its close proximity to Halloween might suggest, All Saints Day is a day for celebrating the lives of departed relatives and praying for the happiness of their souls.
Roads are Especially BusyThe week running up to November 1st is usually characterised by people preparing to take a day to clean and tend to the graves of their loved ones. This may be in their hometown, but it can also be that the roads are busy with people travelling to the graves of their family members. It can also be very busy in Paris, when people choose to visit the graves of famous people, such as Jim Morrison who is buried in Paris.
Women in mourning often clean the graves of their family members during the week, with plastic flowers being popular and changed relatively regularly. Florists are key at this time, too, as the chrysanthemum is the ‘official’ flower for La Toussaint. This is very important for non-French people to know, because it is considered a terrible social 'faux pas' to give chrysanthemums at anytime other than La Toussaint – taking them as a dinner party gift is a huge no-no.
Choose your Flowers WiselyIt is common to see many chrysanthemum plants outside florists, all ready planted, rather than bouquets of flowers and these tend to be placed directly on the graves of family members and also on town centre monuments for battles and commemorations. Carnations are also popular for ‘grave gifts’ at La Toussaint, so it is also wise to avoid them at any other time. French florists are so wonderful there is really no need to choose chrysanthemums or carnations, and it is also a good idea not to get lily’s either as they also have ‘negative connotations’.
Churches are also especially nicely decorated around November 1st, as many people pay an extra visit to church services at this time, even people who rarely attend church at other times throughout the year.