Last Tuesday was the Toussaint public holiday, followed by All Souls Day on Wednesday. During the few days before the holiday the supermarkets were doing a roaring trade in chrysanthemums which people buy to decorate the graves of family members.
Most country people still expect to be buried in the family grave. It is only recently that cremation has been a consideration, and even now for only about 5% of people. At one time if a person was cremated he would not be given a priest’s blessing, and was planted in a corner of the cemetary away from consecrated ground. Cremation is gradually becoming more acceptable, especially in the cities where graveyards are running out of space.
The Toussaint week has been an exceptionally busy one for Taizé. I subscribe to the Taizé newsletter sent via email, and I was astonished to read that 7,500 young people had been in residence.
Five thousand of them were from all parts of France, many in preparation for their confirmation, accompanied by eleven bishops. Generally Germans are the most frequent visitors to Taizé and last week there were about a thousand. It is amazing that people travel such huge distances to visit Taizé. A group we met from Kiev come every year and spend three days on a bus to get here. It’s shameful to realise that we hadn’t even heard about Taizé until after we had moved to Cormatin.
I must show you this fabulous pumpkin carved by Isabel and Charlotte who were at La Maison du Curé at Hallowe’en.
In France Hallowe’en isn’t really celebrated although Toussaint is based on much the same idea. But anything American seems to be popular around here, and last year we did have one group of kids around trick or treating. But in other parts of France there is a lot of resistance to the influence of American marketing and older generations see it as a lack of respect to the dead during the week of Toussaint.