All Saints’ Day, or La Toussaint, is a Christian day of remembrance of all saints and martyrs, including those saints who don’t have a feast day named after them.
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It is also known as All Hallows Day and The Feast of All Saints and is celebrated every year on 1 November. All Saints’ Day actually begins at sundown on the evening before – Hallowe’en, or All Hallow’s Eve. It is followed by All Souls’ Day on 2 November.
All Saints’ Day is a public holiday in France with government offices, banks, shops and schools closed. Many people attend church services to celebrate All Saints’ Day.
Although it is a day when ‘all saints’ are remembered, many people also make it a day to visit the graves of family members. Graves are usually visited on All Souls’ Day but, as the public holiday is on 1 November, this is the day most people go. They usually visit towards the end of the day as families and light candles and leave chrysanthemums on the graves. The cemeteries across France take on the rainbow of colours of flowers and jarred candles on All Saints’ Day.
One of the most famous cemeteries to visit on All Saints’ Day is Père Lachaise on the east of Paris. It is over 44 hectares and contains the graves of many famous French people including Moliere and Frederic Chopin.
Lunch on All Saints’ Day is usually lamb or game. But at midnight the French often eat a supper that consists of bacon, black grain, pancakes and cider in honour of the dead.
This public holiday falls during school holidays in Autumn so it has become very popular for families to gather as a part of a short vacation.