La Toussaint, or All Saint’s Day, is celebrated across France on November 1 each year. The Catholic holiday honors all the saints recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. In honor of La Toussaint, November 1 is a jours férié, or a public holiday. If you are vacationing in France during this time, you will find everything is closed other than flower shops, churches and cemeteries. Businesses, schools, museums, etc. are all closed in honor of this national holiday, and anyone who knows France knows that the French take their holidays seriously. It’s not like in the United States, where you’ll still find many stores open for business and even holding special sales. In France, when things shut down, they shut down.
La Toussaint is usually celebrated in France by bringing flowers to the graves of deceased loved ones. Chrysanthemums are the traditional flower laid out on grave sites, and you will see these flowers lining florists displays and windows around this time of year.
Something important to keep in mind is that because these flowers are traditionally flowers placed in cemeteries, you should not bring chrysanthemums to a French hostess of a dinner party. You will definitely get a strange look, and you may offend. Better to avoid this awkward exchange altogether and pick another flower.
If you don’t have deceased relatives in France, but find yourself in the country on this holiday, take advantage of the beautiful free flower displays in the cemeteries. Places like Père-Lachaise cemetery (Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, where you can also stop by and see the decorated grave of Jim Morrison) and Montparnasse cemetery in Paris are great places to walk around, people watch and take photographs. Plus, with everything else closed to the public on this day, enjoying flowers and touring a cemetery could be a novel way to spend an afternoon.
You will also find parks, especially in Paris, packed with locals enjoying their day off. This is an ideal opportunity to do as the locals do, and take it slow for a day.