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jardin-perdu / The tale of All Hallows

From pumpkins to chrysanthemums; the tale of All Hallows

The last day of October and the first Day of November tell the tale of two different plants; the pumpkin and the chrysanthemum.

Yesterday was of course Halloween, or All Hollows Eve, the day when ghosts and ghouls are said to be at their most active. Yesterday in England, pumpkins were carved and children dressed up in scary costumes to go trick or treating.

Here in France, Halloween is not traditionally celebrated.  During the six years that I have lived here however, it has risen in popularity amongst the French. Supermarkets now sell Halloween decorations, shop windows display pumpkins and the odd spooky decoration. Whilst we had no one knocking on our door last night, our friends who live in a similarly small French hamlet, were greeted at their door by a small group of ghosts and ghouls trick or treating!

Halloween or All Hollow’s Eve, is the day before All Hallows; All Saints day or La Toussaint in French. Toussaint is a bank holiday here in France and a day when the dead are remembered by their families. In the days leading up to Toussaint, shops and pavements are awash with colour, as people sell chrysanthemums.


In France chrysanthemums are symbolic of death and are used for funerals and to decorate graves. On 1st November, Toussaint, families gather and place large pots of chrysanthemums on relative’s graves in remembrance of those who have died.

Rarely will you see French people growing chrysanthemums in their gardens, they have been relegated to the cemetery, seen as the flower of death. Due to its association with death, it is considered a huge faux pas to even give a French person a bunch of chrysanthemums as a gift. In some ways I feel that it is a shame that this flower is treated in such a way here in France, especially as it is in full glorious bloom at a time of the year when colour in the garden is sorely missing. But traditions are traditions and I have chosen to live in France, so alas I will never be able to enjoy the glorious yellows, reds, oranges and pinks of the chrysanthemum in my Autumn garden.

I still have the pumpkin though and every year I grow a few for carving. At least the oranges of the pumpkin brighten my French garden every Autumn.

squash harvest

Undoubtedly the popularity of Halloween will continue to increase here in France. Perhaps in future years not only will the streets be lined with chrysanthemums in the lead up to Toussaint but also pumpkins!?

If you experienced any Halloween jinx yesterday or have perhaps committed the ultimate faux pas by giving a French person a bunch of chrysanthemums, I’d love to hear about it, so please do leave your comments in the box below.

A bientôt
Katherine x







'From pumpkins to chrysanthemums; the tale of All Hallows' have 2 comments

  1. November 2, 2012 @ 11:05 am gardennutter

    When I first arrived in France I bought lots of chrysanthemums in pots and placed them all around the front garden which is a small gravelled garden unlike the acre at the back. My French friend came round and was horrified at what I thought made the garden look really colourful and cheerful. She thought somebody had died….. Flower of death is a really unkind name for something so lovely. However, a nicer thought is that the French do give Lily of the Valley on the 1st May as a lucky charm, another tradition I didn’t know about but now I have lots that my old neighbour had given me over the years and I planted around the old apple tree. He died a few months ago and they will be there showing their little white heads when I come back from India and will always remind me of him and his kindness.


    • November 2, 2012 @ 11:14 am admin

      When you live in a different country it’s so difficult to know about their traditions, you can only learn by trial and error, luckily they are usually very forgiving of us! I agree Jennie,the Lily of the Valley (Muguet de Mai) tradition is lovely. I have a beautiful clump which is now nicely spreading in partial shade at the side of our stream. Gorgeous x


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