Toussaint. Why chrysanthemums symbolize death in France


Originally, chrysanthemums were only yellow, the color that gave its name to this “golden flower”, whose etymology comes from the Greek anthemon, “flower” and krusos, “gold”.

Introduced to Europe in 1789 by the French botanist and explorer Pierre Blancard (1741-1826), this plant from the Asteraceae family grew wild in China, Korea and Japan.

The plant is revered throughout Asia and for over 2,500 years has been a symbol of peace, luck, courage, steadfastness and a long peaceful life in China.

In this country, the chrysanthemum, “jú huā” (Jiuhua) is one of the four “noble plants” along with the prunus mune, the orchid and the bamboo, each symbolizing a season.

The flower of the hairy

Able to brave the first cold, the chrysanthemum, flower of the ninth moon or October moon, is associated with autumn, the time of its exuberant flowering.

It is also the name of the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, the day of the “double nine” or “chrysanthemum festival”, also called the Chongyang festival, where the flower is found everywhere, in vases, cakes, salads and even chrysanthemum wine. The most widespread custom is to wear a flower which is believed to prolong one’s life.

If the chrysanthemum was present in France from the 18th century, it was not until the end of the First World War that it became the flower of All Saints’ Day.

Indeed, a year after the signing of the armistice of November 11, 1918, Raymond Poincaré, President of the Republic, wishes all French people to be able to celebrate their deaths and celebrate the end of the war by going to flower graves.

The ideal plant is then the chrysanthemum, abundantly cultivated, resistant to cold and requiring little care.

Plant of the dead, plant of love

Perennial plant, cultivated in many French gardens, it will quickly establish itself as the symbol of the Day of the Dead. Here, but also in Belgium, Poland, Italy, Hungary, Croatia and Spain.

On the other hand, in the rest of the world, the chrysanthemum has remained a flower synonymous with happiness or gaiety, as in the Netherlands where it is used in the composition of wedding bouquets, or in Great Britain and the United States where it is synonymous with love, serenity and peace.

In Australia, children give chrysanthemums for Mother’s Day, the plant meaning “I love you” in the language of flowers.

Emblem of Japan, it is a symbol of happiness and the emblem of the royal family, thanks to its virtues supposed to make life more beautiful and longer, but also symbolizing the gift of oneself pushed to death to defend the cult imperial.

Many varieties

Over the centuries, many crosses have produced chrysanthemums of all colors, shapes and sizes. There are now over 3,000 varieties that bloom from June until frost.

In October and November, chrysanthemums represent 90% of flower sales, which is equivalent to 30 million flowers sold in France and 290 million euros in turnover. This can represent around 20% of annual turnover, with 95.6% of plants going to cemeteries.

However, tastes are changing and chrysanthemums are more and more in competition with other species… which are less evocative of death.

The other flowers of mourning

At the time of funerals or to decorate a burial, there are many varieties of flowers that carry messages of love. The most symbolic is the mourning rose, called by many florists the last farewell rose or remembrance rose, synonymous with absolute love that unites people. A choice charged with emotion and a very personal message, often the privilege of mourning between spouses. Family members and loved ones more often choose flowers that express a certain intimacy with the deceased, such as lilies, orchids and carnations. White lilies, white roses and daisies, symbols of innocence and purity, will adorn the grave of a child who has left too early. Many other flowers can be placed on a grave, it is still necessary to know the messages carried by each of them.

White azaleas bear witness to the happiness of having loved and the dahlias to gratitude. The anemone expresses sadness as well as the soapwort and aloe. The peony chases away evil spirits while hydrangeas and begonias carry a beautiful message of friendship. There remains the most intense and eternal pain that the immortal says.

To flower the grave with plants resistant to cold and autumn rains, we can think of carnations, white or red, but also certain more ornamental plants such as cyclamen or heather. Over time, perennials, annual climbers or even ground covers planted in a planter or in the ground remain the best choice for decorating a grave with a minimum of maintenance.


Source: Le Progrès : info et actu nationale et régionale – Rhône, Loire, Ain, Haute-Loire et Jura | Le Progrès by www.leprogres.fr.

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