All Saints Day and the story of the Chrysanthemums
The tradition of using chrysanthemums is relatively recent, dating from 1919 when the then President, Raymond Poincaré, declared that all war memorials should be decorated with floral tributes. As one of the rare flowers that still bloom in November, it became the flower of choice for cemeteries, with hundreds of thousands of widows laying blooms at their fallen husbands’ memorials. Today, the chrysanthemum is known as the widow’s flower and is forever associated with Toussaint and death. With such connotations, chrysanthemums are not usually given on other occasions and are recommended to be avoided as a gift – many times, an innocent foreigner has unwittingly caused offence (or at least surprise) by offering a hostess these colourful flowers!
The Chrysanthemum is the most sold flower in the world, and each year around 25 million pots are placed on French graves on the 1st of November, jollying up cemeteries all over the country. Particularly when arranged together in great bunches, they look lovely and bright.A religious celebration to honour all saints has become the day when we pay our respects to those who have passed away with Chrysanthemum flowers. It is the time to gather as a family to flower the tombs of the dead. What is the meaning of this tradition? All Saints Day originally served to honour the saints and martyrs but has now become a day to commemorate the passing of all loved ones. For many, this includes a visit to the cemetery. And the most popular and symbolic flower for this event is and has been for many years, the Chrysanthemum.
It is especially the Spaniards, Italians and French that buy flowers for their loved ones to mark the occasion. Spaniards and Italians like to buy mixed bouquets, while the French prefer a flower piece, and the Poles buy mono-floral bouquets. The Chrysanthemums has traditionally been the primary flower associated with All Saints Day. Thus, it might not come as a surprise that in France and Italy, more than 50% of the mono-floral bouquets bought for the occasion are Chrysanthemums, while in Poland, the number is as high as 63%. It is especially the white and yellow colours that are popular for this occasion, although, in Spain, red Chrysanthemums are too. Besides cut flowers, in Poland people also like to buy plants for All Saints Day, of which, again, 80% is Chrysanthemum. This flower, which comes as a single flower, Santini and spray, is surrounded by symbolism – from lasting friendship to life and rebirth, support for family and loved ones and much more. Moreover, Chrysanthemums comes in various bright colours, which gives regular buyers and florists endless possibilities. Isn’t this perfect for a day dedicated to the ones passed away?
Chrysanthemums and All Souls’ Day
Halloween is barely noticeable in France. The same cannot be said of All Saints’ Day, also known as La Toussaint, the Day of the Dead, and the Jour des Morts (November 2.). La Toussaint is considered a national holiday in certain countries where families bring fresh flowers, often Chrysanthemums, to the tombs of their departed loved ones, and cheerful Mum blossoms and Chrysanthemums fill the streets of Paris. Some may be surprised to hear that the Americans have a completely different association with the flower. In California, you might be able to see pink, red and gold Chrysanthemums bloom in Los Angeles gardens, but these homeowners just enjoy the flowers for their pretty looks. Moreover, in Asia - where the flower originates from - it is associated with joy, elegance and eternity. It is interesting to consider how one culture view the Chrysanthemums as a flower of death, while others regard it is as a symbol of elegance or simply as a colourful addition to the backyards.
You'd be glad to know that the chrysanthemum isn’t associated with death all over the world. In fact, in direct contrast in Asia where it originates from, it is the flower of joy, elegance and eternity.