Traditions – General Info

Halloween – Toussaint – Samhain – Origins

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Toussaint – All Saints, Halloween or Samhain?

Halloween is the corruption of All Hallows’ Eve- the Eve of all Hallows – Hallow meaning Holy person.

The French equivalent of Halloween is Toussaint (short for Tous Saints – All Saints)

The origins of this festival go back to the Pagan era when Celts celebrated Samhain, their God of the Dead.

It marked the end of Summer and Harvest and the beginning of their New Year on 31st October.

Samhain was also the end of the lighter half of the year and the beginning of the darker half.

It is easy to understand the anxiety of these ancient folks, whose survival was closely linked to the passing of the seasons.

They would be cut off from the other groups for many long and cold Winter months.

The provisions, accumulated during the warm season, were to hold up for as long as possible, regardless of the harshness of the winter weather.

No wonder that Samhain was their last major festival, their last gathering of the year.

Samhain took place on the 31st October, however, celebrations took place over 5 days.

They indeed began 2 days earlier and ended 3 days later!

Samhain was a rite of passage, a transition from one world to another, and was therefore closely linked to the cult of death.

Samhain, the Celtic God of the Dead returned to Earth on that eve (Halloween’s Eve).

He brought with him the lost souls of the dead, who were allowed to wander among the living only on that night.

They therefore had to be appeased with sacrifices.

Bonfires were lit in order to guide them in the dark toward the offerings intentionally prepared for them.

The Druids therefore went from dwelling to dwelling to demand offerings.

They also cast a curse on those who refused; the choice was Offering or Curse – Trick or Treat!

I’m not sure they faced much rejection!

All colours are accepted for Toussaint

Toussaint – Halloween

Christian preachers started to convert French folks as early as the 3rd century AD.

However, the old Pagan beliefs were so deeply rooted in the popular traditions that the Church of Rome could not eradicate them.

The only way was to superimpose the two religions, retain the dates of the Pagan celebrations but alter their symbolism.

The Roman Catholic Church therefore associated the celebration of Samhain with the celebration All Christian Martyrs – All Saints.

This celebration originally took place on May 13.

However, in 830 Pope Gregory IV commuted it into a festival celebrating all the Saints recognized by the Church of Rome.

He also moved it to 1st November in order to eradicate Samhain.

Toussaint – Jour des Morts – Mois des Morts

Toussaint is a public holiday in France; it is followed by the Jour des Morts – Day of the Dead (November 2nd).

Toussaint-All Saints Day – Jour des Morts-Day of the Dead (November 1st- 2nd) have merged.

It’s a day when French people honour their dead, those who have not yet reached the Gates of Paradise.

French have been civilized (I like to think so!) for a very long time now and  therefore don’t practice sacrifices anymore!

However, the concept of making offerings has since been transmuted into placing chrysanthemums on their loved ones’ graves.

The month of November used to be known as the Mois des Morts – Month of the Dead.

Chrysanthemums for Toussaint

Chrysanthemum is a beautiful perennial Golden Flower (the colour of the original flower) so dear to our Japanese friends.

It is also one of the few flowers that bloom late October – early November and resist frost.

They are also one of the cheapest flowers at this time of the year.

In the Language of Flowers, the chrysanthemum is the symbol of Peace and Resurrection.

Placing chrysanthemums on the graves is very deeply ingrained in our culture.

It is obviously an act that symbolizes the Resurrection of the Dead.

Have you read the legend of Jack O’Lantern
Have you read about the Catacombes, Paris underground necropolis

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