Ragtag Tuesday: Toussaint – the Day of the Dead

No, I’m not talking about the Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, that life-affirming joyous celebration of life that happens in Mexico at this time of year.

I’m remembering our life in France.  I’m remembering how, from early October and for the rest of the month, shops and markets would be crammed with pots and pots of chrysanthemums.  It’s hard to know where they could all have been grown.  Or how they could all find buyers.  The Hard Discount supermarkets would sell them for a euro or two, while high-end florists expected a great deal more.

On All Saints’ Day, November 1st, all these chrysanthemums – white, russet, yellow, mauve, crimson – would suddenly appear in the cemeteries, jostled and packed onto family tombs .  And those cemeteries weren’t just crowded with plants.  Family groups make it their business to visit their deceased relatives in the season of Toussaint.  The day itself is a public holiday, and so those family members who’ve died provide an excuse for a family get-together. Here’s a day when, out of respect, there’s no opportunity to air old grievances or argue over the family silver.

Foreign visitors can make a big mistake when coming to see their French friends at this time of year.  ‘There were such a lot of lovely chrysanthemums in the shops, I couldn’t resist buying a pot for you’.  It doesn’t go down well.  There’s only one place for these flowers once they’ve left the shop.  The graveyard.

What HAS happened to all my photos taken in France of Toussaint chrysanthemums in shops, markets, cemeteries?  Who knows?  I’ve had to rely on Unsplash, a brilliant collection of copyright-free photos, offered by the world’s photographers.

Today’s Ragtag Challenge is ‘Dead’.

Author: margaret21

I'm retired and living in North Yorkshire, where I walk as often as I can, write, volunteer, and travel as often as I can.

19 thoughts on “Ragtag Tuesday: Toussaint – the Day of the Dead”

  1. I do hope you find your missing photos! Thanks for the link to Unsplash. I had not heard of it before. Your post reminds me of a short story read years back “The Odour of Chrysanthemums” by DH Lawrence. Perhaps I need to revisit that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, they’re not lost, jut lazily filed on some old USB stick. I just couldn’t be bothered to sort it all out. One of those jobs for winter maybe…… I don’t know this particular DH Lawrence story. I should look it out. Thanks.

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  2. I am a little more informed now, Margaret. I didn’t know about this French public holiday. I think it is nice to have a day to formally remember loved ones, and to be able to do that with flowers. I have a beautiful mollis azalea flowering at the moment. It is a brilliant orange, which was my mother-in-law’s favourite colour. I think of her every time I look at the flowers. Now I will also remember your story of Toussaint when I look at the flowers in a couple of days time.

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  3. Ah chrysanthemums were my great-grandmother’s favourites – she had a November birthday. Interesting how a flower with such a special place in Japanese culture and an association with longevity should be found as a remembrance, commemoration bloom in France.

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  4. oh I’m sorry you’ve lost your photos! I expect there were some beauties in there. Interesting about the notion of giving/not giving chrysanths at this time of year. There are so many associations with flowers, even here in the UK – we’ve lost a lot of them since Victorian times, though my mother won’t accept or give lillies (as they’re a sign of a funeral) xx

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      1. Ah that’s good then, about the photos. I actually enjoy rediscovering my old photos rather than have them neatly all in books, it’s sort of like finding an emotional tenner down the back of the sofa when you see an image you’ve not looked at for years! Lovely post by the way xx

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  5. As a child in Melbourne we always visited Mum’s mother’s grave on Mother’s Day in May. The flower sellers only sold chrysanthemums. I can still remember the smell and that huge grey concrete cemetery and paying respects to someone I never knew.

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  6. I had no idea about this tradition! I’d’ve been the one, inappropriately giving mums just because they’re pretty and because we all have them, everywhere, this time of year, in the US. And, being brought up Protestant, All Saints Day, was of no notice. As always, you do interesting things with your prompt!


    1. I’m sure you’re safe in the States to give as many chrysanthemums as you like. Just avoid France, Italy and Spain and any other Catholic countries you might visit at that time!


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