All Saints and the chrysanthemum (La Toussaint et le chrysantheme)

The cemeteries have been very busy places for the last few days, and are now looking splendid with the graves cleaned and decorated with masses and masses of chrysanthemums.

In a custom that goes back through time families have decorated the graves of their departed loved ones; previously this was done with candles: the flowers, and in particular chrysanthemums replacing these since the middle of the 19th century.

The chrysanthemum (from the Greek “khrousos anthemon” – flower of gold) is a symbol of pleasure and well-being in Japan – in France a symbol of immortality, as it resists the frosts and takes little looking after.

It is said that the chrysanthemum never flowers before the autumnul equinox (21st September); their petals are seen as a light of hope in the midst of the autumnal mists and fogs.

In 1789 a French sea-captain brought the first variety of chrysanthemum from China; 50 years later another sea-captain, aided by a gardener, worked to begin the production of the vast range of chrysanthemums available today. Every cemetery, every garden, every market is resplendent with the colours of these plants this weekend.

Some confusion there – 1st November is All Saints day, and the colour should be white; violet and other colours should only come in from the 2nd November – All Souls Day, the day set apart by the Church for remembrance of those who have died. But then as with all pagan festivals taken over by Christianity, the older elements and celebrations have a habit of creeping back in.

France as a secular state shows this same ambivalence in taking as a jour ferie the “Christian” festival of Toussaint.

Best wishes for your celebration of this season – Hallowe’en, Samhain, All Saints/All Souls, Day of the Dead.

Bob and Marjory.

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Welcome

For those who’ve visited, or are thinking about visiting, we’d like to keep you up to date with what’s happening to us, and in our little part of Normandy.

Check us out from time to time to discover what’s happening here – news and views, festivals and fete days, special holiday offers in our cottages and chambre d’hote; all things interesting and exciting, we hope.

Contact us for further information, or visit our website www.hirondelleholidays.com

Bob and Marjory

Hallowe’en

Well, not quite yet. But the shops are already full of fancy dress for the kids, and foods and drinks specially for the day. France seems to be following America in making this festival a huge family affair, with all the paraphernalia for the occasion. And remember the Christmas House ?

Well, at the moment it is being decorated with ghosts and witches and pumpkins, ready for the holiday season rapidly approaching. For a secular society France still clings to a many religious festivals, and the festival of “Toussaint” is a public holiday, and the centre of a week’s school holiday.

In the ancient pagan religions this festival was celebrated as Samhain, a harvest festival, hence the pumpkin, but also part of the ancestor worship and looking to the spirits for protection, hence the ghosts, witches, etc.

 

 

In England we don’t seem to make so much of it; even less after the puritans put their spoke in on the non-biblical basis of many religious festivals. But then of course we do have Bonfire Night coming up, and its celebration of the failed Roman Catholic coup in England!

How about celebrating Halowe’en in France? Brittany Ferries have a special 24hr offer – see their website www.brittany-ferries.co.uk/offers/ferry/half-term-day-trips-france – with children up to 16 travelling free. If you arrive through Caen and leave through Cherbourg you can have a day and night in France. We can offer accomodation (B&B) at €42,00 for a double room; or perhaps an overnight stay in a gite – contact us for details and advice on ways to make best use of this offer.

Or why not have a longer break ? –

October Half Term

Saturday 25 October-Saturday 1 November

£430.00 

OR 

5 days

Saturday 25 October – Thursday 30 October

OR

Sunday 26 October – Friday 31 October

£315.00

 

This includes cottage, inclusive of electricity, and ferry travel for up to 5 passengers in a standard car travelling Poole to Cherbourg.   More details or other dates available on request.

 Wishing you all the best for the festival, however you celebrate it.

Bob and Marjory

There’s a pheasant in the garden!!

Looked out of the window, and there it was. In the top corner of the garden, by the shed. Looked as if it was a little confused – why else would it be exploring our yard? ; hardly its natural habitat. So it strutted across the front of the shed, keeping an eye on the raised salad beds as it went; ducked behind the trailer, and seemed to spend some time studying the wood pile.

It then weaved its way around the bushes keeping close to the back wall, with a nervous jump as it passed the washing just as the wind caught it; took a look at the gate through to next door, and disappeared behind the hedge. A brief moment and it reappeared, searching down the front side of the garden for a way through – all holes blocked by the neighbours on account of their puppy, which loves finding its way through. It then disappeared out through the front hedge.

So why was it here? The “Chasse” began last Sunday, and this was Thursday; the second permitted day. Perhaps it was on the run from the hunters – the neighbour was out, with his dogs and his gun; could have been nasty for the pheasant otherwise. But talking to Francis on Friday, he suggested another reason – on Thursday the farmer had cut the field of Maize behind our houses, and hares, rabbits and birds had been disturbed.

This led to a discussion about the “Chasse”, and its benefits to the countryside; the strict regulations covering hunting, and the policing of these regulations by agents of the (French equivalent of) Department of the Environment. Numbers of birds and animals taken have to be meticulously recorded, and, for example, only two hares are allowed to each hunter each season. Francis complained about the cost, and the paperwork involved, and the necessity to carry the paperwork in case of being approached by the agents; but then agreed that on the whole it was good for the environment (other hunters we know seem to share this concern for the environment). And the cost can be reduced if you agree to take part in the organised cull of foxes!

Bob and Marjory