So French France

On All Saints' Day in France, we remember our dead

Tradition is always respected. Every year, millions of French men and women visit cemeteries to tend the graves and plant flowers. Chrysanthemums, the emblematic plant, continue to be the most common plant placed on graves, with 20,000,000 pots sold each year for All Saints' Day alone. But where does this holiday come from? Why Chrysanthemums, and what are the traditions of All Saints' Day? Monsieur de France's answers


Time of the dead for a long, long time


Long before it was called All Saints' Day , this time of year was dedicated to the dead. In Celtic times, it was the period of Samain, a day seen as a passage from the light of summer to the darkness of winter, a passage from life to death, and therefore a time dedicated to remembering the dead. In Brittany, the door of the house was left open to allow the dead to be reunited with their families on this night. Samain, transformed over time, became Halloween in Anglo-Saxon countries.



And a religious holiday


After a long tradition of celebrating the memory of saints and martyrs on May 13, All Saints' Day was moved to November 1 by Pope Gregory IV around the year 835. The aim was to combat the pagan remnants of the Samain night of the dead. A way for the Catholic Church to put down even deeper roots.


Un cimetière en France. Photo choisie par Monsieurdefrance.Com : depositphotos

A cemetery in France. Photo chosen by Monsieurdefrance.Com: depositphotos



The tradition of flowering graves


The tradition of planting flowers on graves is a very old one, and is still very much alive, as 35,000,000 French people continue to plant flowers on their graves at All Saints' Day. More than 20,000,000 chrysanthemums are sold at this time of year, demonstrating that the plant remains a beautiful symbol of the season.



Where does the Chrysanthemum tradition come from?


It was in the aftermath of the First World War that the Chrysanthemum made a huge breakthrough among the plants placed in cemeteries at All Saints' Day. In 1919, when the bodies of French soldiers were still lying in improvised necropolises, and there were as yet no monuments to the dead to pay their respects, French President Raymond Poincaré proposed an original idea: to decorate the graves of poilus, wherever they were, with flowers. The chrysanthemum was the most popular flower at this time of year, and the most spectacular, so it was quickly chosen by the French. This desire to decorate the graves of the "Poilus" who fell on the Field of Honor was eventually extended, little by little, to all the dead at this time of year, which was already a moment of meditation in memory of the departed.


la chrysanthème est la fleur privilégiée pour la Toussaint en France. Photo choisie par

Chrysanthemums are the flower of choice for All Saints' Day in France. Photo chosen by



Gourmet traditions too


It's often a time for big family meals, as the family is often together at this time of year. In particular, it's an ideal time for "group" dishes such as boeuf bourguignon. In Corsica, we like to enjoy Salviata, an S-shaped cake originally flavored with sage (hence the name salviata, which derives from salvia: sage). Today, salviatas are mainly lemon-flavored, or flavored with orange blossom or aniseed. In the Seine-et-Marne region, in Provins, near Paris, we enjoy niflettes, small cakes whose name "niflette" is said to come from "to sniff" like crying children, since they were offered to orphans in the Middle Ages.

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme is "monsieur de France" the author of this site. 

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme Prod'homme

Jérôme is "monsieur de France" the author of this site.