France’s special flower

Yesterday (Sunday, November 1) was the holiday known as La Toussaint, or All Saints’ Day, and so chrysanthemums were everywhere.

Okay, not everywhere — but certainly evident in cemeteries throughout the Greater Daglan Area.

Why, you might ask? To explain, this is what I wrote in a Radio Free Daglan posting three years ago, on October 29, 2012:

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.)

Does this mean that the chrysanthemum is France’s national flower? No, that’s the iris. The role of the chrysanthemum in honouring the deceased apparently dates back to just after World War I, when the nation’s President decreed that flowers should be used to decorate war memorials. Since the chrysanthemum is one of the few flowers available in autumn — remember that Armistice Day takes place on November 11 —  it became the nation’s floral choice.

To give you an idea of how all this looks, here’s a view of Daglan’s cemetery late yesterday afternoon:

Pots and pots of the flowers decorate the tombs.

Pots and pots of the flowers decorate the tombs.

A final word on the subject: Don’t ever take a chrysanthemum plant as a gift if you’re invited to a French home for drinks or a meal. The flower has simply become too associated with death.

This entry was posted in Flora and fauna, Holidays in France, Life in southwest France and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to France’s special flower

  1. Lesley says:

    It is such a shame that the lovely flower in its many colours and form is a no no here. A bunch of the long-lasting cut flowers was always appreciated when I lived in the UK.
    My parents are both long gone but we now buy a pot this time of the year in their memory as their birthdays happen to have been 27th & 30th October.

  2. D2 says:

    Great advice, as I recall some cultures have superstitions about flower colours too. Be sure to check before you bring roses to a Mexican family for instance. (saw Spectre 007 last night)

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