We are now very close to Halloween, and as you might expect, French supermarkets and outdoor markets are filled to the brim with some special items that are appropriate to the occasion.
Pumpkins to carve into jack o’lanterns, perhaps? Bags of candy to hand out to kids? Elaborate decorations and scary costumes?
Not so fast. Let’s get our priorities straight.
Obviously, the No. 1 thing that retailers would want to be promoting at this time of year would be Christmas gifts. That’s why today’s packet of promotional materials (our catalogues and flyers are delivered in a big bunch each Monday) features a lot of Christmas items. Here’s how some of the flyers looked, spread out on our dining table:
Okay, but what about specialty items for use in the near future? Pumpkins? Costumes? No, silly — chrysanthemums!
It’s true. There is very little interest in Halloween itself, but a lot of attention is paid to the following day. This coming Thursday, November 1, is once again the annual holiday known here as La Toussaint, or All Saints’ Day. It’s a big deal.
This is the time of year when the French people pay their respects to the memories of family members and friends who have passed away. They visit cemeteries and lay flowers on the graves of their loved ones. And almost without exception, the flowers they use are chrysanthemums. As a result, chrysanthemum plants are now everywhere. (I was amused by a scrawled sign that I saw a week or so ago, taped to the window of the front door at the supermarket in nearby Cénac, which said “Clients! The chrysanthemums have arrived!” You could tell from the way the sign was scrawled that the clerk had been very, very excited about this development.)
Yesterday afternoon, as my wife and I were driving home, we stopped at the “bio” (organic foods) store in St. Cybranet to photograph a cluster of chrysanthemums being sold from the parking lot. Here they are:
As Jan took the photo, the man who was selling the flowers decided he should be in the picture, so he waved at us to let him get into position. For your viewing enjoyment, here he is:
As for pumpkins and jack o’lanterns, that’s another story — and will be covered in a future posting. But before we leave you today, here’s a bit of October beauty to enjoy; Jan took this photo from our bedroom window one recent morning, as the sunrise was lighting up the high clouds above:
One final tip, before I forget: If you’re ever invited out to dinner in France, and decide to take flowers as a gift to your host and hostess, do not choose chrysanthemums. You may think they look pretty, but to a French person, they belong on gravestones.