Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Grave matters - Toussaint

“During this bank holiday, French people traditionally pay tribute to their relatives but La Toussaint (French All Saints) is also today a good opportunity to get together and spend time with the family. Visiting cemeteries and bringing flowers to the graves of their loved ones is now part of French people's All Saints traditions. November the 1st is indeed a national Jour Férié in France, meaning that most of the shops, restaurants, schools and companies are closed. La Toussaint (All Saints Day), although deeply rooted in the Catholic religion, is actually widely respected in France and has given rise to a few customs. Generally speaking, French people like to attend the All Saints Mass to remember the Catholic Saints as well as honour their late relatives. Then they usually take the advantage of this bank day to visit some cemetery and lay down a symbolic bunch of flowers at gravesites as sign of honour. On November 1st it is a common sight to see French people laying chrysanthemums or wreaths of immortelles (everlasting flowers) on the graves of loved ones. Chrysanthemums are indeed so closely linked to La Toussaint that the French never give them as a gift.” (Thanks to for the information). So what does this mean? Well some of the supermarkets are selling arrangements of plastic flowers, small plaques with appropriate messages on and bouquets of real flowers. Everything in fact, that the grave visitor might need.
The local cemetery in the commune in which I work has been tidying up over the last few months.
 The interior cemetery walls have jet washed, the gravel on the ground has been topped up, and people have been tidying up the graves of their loved ones. Even the Jesuses have been given a lick of paint.
Of course some of the older graves remain uncared for, the plastic flowers faded to a dirty off-white colour, or with no flowers or ornaments left at all. Little white notices on these graves inform us that unless someone claims responsibility for the upkeep of the grave soon, the plot will be cleared to make room for a new occupant.
Here then are a selection of graves for you to admire.

The graveyard has magnificent views of the surrounding hills and the snow-capped Pyrenees some 40 kms. away, can be seen in the distance.

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