The Month Of November’s 3 Celebrations In France

chrysamthemesIf you would ever get a culture shock in France it would be during the month of November, because while France doesn’t have a Thanksgiving day, there are 3 celebrations that are very different than the American Thanksgiving you know, and they’re not celebrated here.

So, I am going to dedicate this post to those 3 November celebrations in France, and I know that at least one may surprise you.

November 1st – La Toussaint

November 1st is a day off celebration that is called “la Toussaint” which means “day of all saints”This expression was created from the abbreviation “tous” and “saints” which means all saints. Thus it became Toussaint.

France, being a catholic country this is the day that the Catholic Church celebrates and honors all the saints. However, whether people are religious or not, it’s still a day when people enjoy a day off and gather for a holiday family meal.

The French always enjoy a family meal, if nothing else!

The origin of this religious holiday is not very clear, except that it’s Catholic church related, and has been celebrated on November 1st  since the VIII Century when pope Grégoire III dedicated a chapel in honor of all the saints.

Since then November 1st is a National Holiday in France.

November 2nd – La Fête des Morts

The following day, November 2nd is the “celebration of the dead” called “La Fête des Morts(the Holiday of the Dead) or  “Le Jour des Morts(the Day of the Dead).

And here is where it might be a shocker for people on this part of the world.

This is the day people are supposed to go to the tombs of their passed away loved ones and bring them followers. Since November 2nd is not a day off, people do go on their relatives’ tombs on November 1st.

At this time of the year, tombs are so full with mum flowers. If a family happens to have too many pots of flowers, as it’s often the case, they’ll put some of their extra ones on tombs that don’t have any.

Of course, the reason why chrysanthemums is the flower of choice is because, as you know, it’s the flower of the season, however,  because of that, in France, this flower is forever linked to the dead, and it’s never offered as a gift.

Because of this,  the first few years of living in the US, seeing those Chrysanthemums flowers on houses’ porches didn’t make me feel very easy.  Let’s say that it took a little bit of getting used to.

November 11th – L’ Armistice

armistice France

November 11th was a double dose of holiday for my family because besides a National Holiday and a day off it was also my brother’s birthday.

November 11th is a National Holiday called “L’Armistice” (Armistice Day) or “Jour du Souvenir” (Remembrance Day) which celebrates the end of the the first World War were the armistice was signed in Compiègne, France, on a railroad in 1918, which put an official end to WWI and the victory of the Allies over Germany.

World War I was responsible for over a million dead and almost 6 millions wounded in France alone.  That November 11, 1918 was a relief from the suffering in Europe in those days.

Little did they know that just about 20 years later the miserable war against the German will come back again with a vengeance, which made people of my grandparent’s generation live through 2 world wars, one when they were kids, and the other as adults.  But for the time being, France and the rest of Europe had won over the enemy.

November 11th Armistice day is celebrated since 1920, when an unknown soldier who died during that war was buried under L’Arc de Trionphe in Paris.

On that day there are some ceremonies at the Arc of Triumph where the French president rekindles the flame on the grave of the Unknown Soldier.  There are also official celebrations in every towns and villages all over France.

November 11th is now a celebration in memory of ALL the French citizens who died at war.

Here is present French President Hollande rekindling the flame.

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10 thoughts on “The Month Of November’s 3 Celebrations In France”

  1. Now this is interesting Sylviane.

    When I did research last year to write a guest post for a friend around Halloween I did some research about how it all came about.

    They stated that it was back in Ireland actually and it was around “all saints day” and the “day of the dead”. Without going back and reading that again it was those celebrations that started this and then it went into Europe and eventually became known as Halloween here in the states.

    So France still celebrates those original days and had I not read about that before I would be a little more surprised I guess. How they celebrate that in France was new to me and interesting I might add.

    Now I wasn’t aware of the last one but celebrating the end of a war is something that I think should be celebrated.

    As always, thanks for the history lesson. Very interesting indeed my friend.

    Hey, enjoy your weekend too and good seeing you yesterday.

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    1. Hi Adrienne,

      Wow, that’s funny. But he day of the dead is a serious day there, not a party with a dead man mask, tough. It’s really a serious day where we remember our lost ones.

      I always thought that Hallowing had some kind of spooky roots that had to do with the dead, didn’t exactly know what. I’ve never like that holiday 🙂

      November 11th they do mention it here, though, that’s what they call veterans day, it just has a different name in France, and really a national day off.

      My brother was supposed to arrive in this world on Christmas or very closed to it, but he was premature and was born on Armistice day. I guess he liked holidays 🙂

      Thanks for coming, and have a great weekend!
      Sylviane Nuccio invites you to read..10 Interesting Facts From France You Should KnowMy Profile

  2. Hi Sylviane,

    Wow…so many holidays just before the Christmas season! I acknowledge November 1 as all saints day in my religion. When I was a kid I thought it was all souls day. Hey, maybe I was French in a past life.

    ll/ll Armistice day – Now that is my step daughter’s birthday so that one is easy to remember. A numerologist would say it is a very high spiritual day. So your brother must have some high spirituality….hope he connected with that.

    My goodness what a month!

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  3. Yes, Donna, what a month full of holidays before the big one in December.

    Yes November 1st is also called “All Soul’s Day”. I’ve heard that before.

    It’s funny, yesterday, I went to walk in my favorite park (which you seen pictures from) and as we passed a couple the woman said to the man “it’s the day of the dead today,” and I said to my friend, wow, she knows that 🙂 it is the dead of the dead today in France, today, and I just wrote a post about that. Apparently some people here know that too.

    Yes, my brother is a spiritual person, but it became obvious only in his mid 20’s 🙂

    Thanks for coming, Donna. Really appreciate you. Have a great Sunday!
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  4. Very interesting, Sylviane! I know about the feast of all saints because my family always used to go to church on that day 🙂 We had to repent for eating all that Halloween candy, lol.

    I didn’t know about the day of the dead… and I had no idea that you didn’t give mums as gifts because of that. I know that mums are pretty big in the fall, you see them everywhere.

    I got a good history lesson from you today!
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    1. Hi Carol,

      It seems that some American people do know about the day of the dead, because on Saturday afternoon, as I was walking in my favorite neighborhood park I heard a lady say to the man, as they walked by me, “today is the day of the dead.” I was kind of surprised because I had just written about it two days before 🙂

      You may offer mum followers to someone you know well, but as a general rule you’re not going to offer mum followers because it’s so linked to cemeteries in France. I know it’s sad 🙂

      Thanks for your visit. Always appreciated.
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  5. Hi Sylviane,

    Since I’m from Croatia (south of France) we also don’t celebrate Thanksgiving day. From the three mentioned celebrations we have the November 1st in common. And yes we call it All Saints Day. Since it’s a day off, this year fell on a Thursday and we had a day off on a Friday as well :). Just so you know, I think Croatia is a leader in merging holidays during the week.

    For me it’s always interesting to see the diversity of other nations habits and lifestyle. I was once in Paris and it was fascinating. Love at first sight!

    Thanks Sylviane for sharing this post, I enjoyed it.

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