All Saint’s Day is November first, and in its older named of All Hallows or Hallowmas, gave us the name Halloween, from “Hallow Evening”. When I was growing up, you could still see the spelling “Hallowe’en”, although usually in older literature. Now it seems to have completely disappeared, which is okay with me. I could never remember exactly where that apostrophe went. All Saint’s Day, according to Wikipedia, is
“a solemnity celebrated on 1 November by parts of Western Christianity, and on the first Sunday after Pentecost in Eastern Christianity, in honour of all the saints, known and unknown. In the Western calendar it is the day after Halloween and the day before All Souls' Day.
In Western Christian theology, the day commemorates all those who have attained the beatific vision in Heaven. It is a national holiday in many historically Catholic countries. In the Catholic Church and many Anglican churches, the next day specifically commemorates the departed faithful who have not yet been purified and reached heaven. Christians who celebrate All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day do so in the fundamental belief that there is a prayerful spiritual bond between those in purgatory (the 'Church Suffering'), those in heaven (the 'church triumphant'), and the living (the 'church militant'). Other Christian traditions define, remember and respond to the saints in different ways; for example, in the Methodist Church*, saints refer to all Christians and therefore, on All Saint's Day, the Church Universal, as well as the deceased members of a local congregation are honoured and remembered.”
I used to think All Saint’s Day was another name for All Soul’s Day, but I see they are two separate days. All Saint’s Day celebrates the first string and All Soul’s Day, the bench warmers.
Every All Saint’s Day my late mother-in-law would go to the cemetery where her family was buried to put flowers on the graves. This is the custom in New Orleans, as well as (so Wiki tells me) “Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Chile, France, Hungary, Italy, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, [and] Spain”. The New Orleans custom could have come from the French or Spanish or both.
New Orleans being a semi-tropical city and my mother-in-law having had quite the green thumb, she was always able to find enough in her garden to make a good show. Unless it had been unseasonably cold, there would be late roses, mums, and possibly a few remaining zinnias and cockscombs, which MIL always called “rooster combs” to my great (and secret) delight, plus a few other flowers I never knew the names of.
MIL was always giving me cuttings from her garden. I still have a white rosebush, gladiolas, and something red that looks like a lily but isn’t that started life in her garden. I wouldn’t have a garden at all if it hadn’t been for her, but I have nowhere near her green thumb. It’s all survival of the fittest out in my yard.
Once MIL moved to a retirement home in Baton Rouge, my husband would drive her to New Orleans on whatever Saturday was closest, after purchasing flowers from the grocery. Skipping Christmas or (even worse) Mardi Gras would not have been as major a departure from What Is Right as neglecting the duty to the dead.
So on Tuesday I reminded John that if he didn’t want his mother’s ghost to rise up and haunt us for the next year, we had better get ourselves to New Orleans sometime soon with some flowers. “Oh, I forgot about that”, he said. This morning he decided it would be a good day to go. This morning it’s raining.
None of the fittest having survived out back, we are having to take purchased flowers, but that’s okay. The important thing is to be there and remember.
And not to get haunted.
*Not so much at St. Anonymous. We had one preacher who remembered All Saint’s Day, but he left abruptly for reasons that were not officially talked about, but everyone knew.