In France, on November 1st, we celebrate "La Toussaint" or All Saints Day. All Saints Day is one of the most respected National Public days in France. During this bank holiday, French people pay tribute to their relatives. It's an opportunity to get together, spend time with family, and remember the deceased.
In the village of Forcalquier, located in Haute-Provence, most of my family members are buried. Like any french holiday, "La Toussaint" is a feast. Relatives from all over join together to eat, drink, and then visit the cemetery. On "La Toussaint" you may see family members you haven't seen in a year, for unlike America, Christmas and Birthdays are only spent with close family. As far as back as I can remember, November in my village offers up the perfect weather to ride your bicycle through the winding streets that lead to the cemetery to visit your ancestor's tombs. We would leave our bicycles at the gate and enter the silent cemetery, surrounded by other families from all over the village who are also visiting the dead.
This celebration of the dead is very different than the American Halloween. There are no ghosts, zombies, or monsters, but hundred year old monuments, twisted Labyrinths lined with sculptures covered in flowers. In many ways the beauty of these cemeteries is equal to the grandeur of the gardens of Versailles.
"La Toussaint" is a day to be with family and to remember generations of the past. Because many families stay in the same village their whole lives, the knowledge and stories of family members is passed down. Children grow up knowing these stories and pass them down to their children. Great Grandparents, Grandparents, and Parents gather together to clean, water, and arrange flowers on the graves of their ancestors, while the children listen to stories about births, weddings, and deaths of all the people who where somehow linked to their family tree. Through these stories, it seems like the dead come back alive and that fifty years ago seem like yesterday.
"La Toussaint" is a beautiful day to remember...
who you are.