Friday, 30 October 2009

World Blog Surf Day - Aller Heiligen (All Saints Day)

Hi and welcome to my first attempt at a World Blog Surf Day participation. For anyone who does not know what this event is about, a whole bunch of us expat bloggers post on the same day on the same theme. The Theme for this particular event is Holidays and Celebrations. Each blogger links to the next blogger on the list and thus it gives the surfer the opportunity to travel the world through the participating blogs. My thanks to Sher of Czech Off the Beaten Path for organizing this event and for those of you who use that Twit thing Karen of the blog Empty Nest Expat is reporting the event on her Twitter account, emptynestexpat.

A Flamingo in Utrecht
is the blog on the list that follows this one. It is the blog of Alison who is originally from the USA and is now living in The Netherlands (Holland)

Aller Heiligen (All Saints Day)
or Chrysanthemum day (as I like to call it)

Of course, All Saints Day happens in the UK but it is not really of much note there. In Belgium the first of November is a public holiday and is the time when people remember their loved ones, family and friends that have departed this mortal realm. In the run up to the day people visit cemeteries on mass clean, polish and generally spruce up the graves of those whom are no longer with us and leave potted Chrysanthemums on or near their graves.

For those that have recently lost loved ones this can be an important part of the grieving process but for others it is a chance to remember a person who is gone. The atmosphere around the cemeteries is surprisingly up beat, in the period running up to the day, people bump into and chat with others that they have not seen for a while and the whole feel is that of a community event. whilst I visited cemeteries, to take photographs, a few people asked what I was doing, when I told them all where very approving of my motives and some shared stories of the persons whose graves they where tending. All in all it seems to bring back to life the memories of those who are now gone. The cemeteries are very busy at this time of year.


These plants are everywhere at this time of year. Local authorities replace the annual bedding schemes with them, people have them outside of their doors and garden walls and of coarse many shops have great colourful displays of what they have for sale. Literally millions of Chrysanthemums are sold in Belgium at this time of year, there are many plant nurseries that produce large amounts of these and some produce nothing else and their entire production is dedicated to this event.

From the Grandest of tombs

To the humblest of plots

You will find the same level of care and chrysanthemums will be left. It is strange how something that you would think may be a somber occasion, can create such a feeling of community and have such an up beat feel. I think this is symbolized by the normally grey and sober cemeteries turning into a riot of colour. It is a time to celebrate and remember the lives of the departed, not a time to weep.

For the next blog in the chain for this event click on the link below

A Flamingo in Utrecht

If you find the link chain broken, there is a full list of participating blogs in the following post link

World Blog Surf Day Link List



Ivanhoe said...

What a wonderful and colorful way to honor the departed!
Happy surfing :o)

Sezin said...

Fantastic! This is also my favorite holiday here in Prague.

BBE said...

Ivanhoe - I have had a look around some of the blogs already and will get to the rest later today. This is a fun surfing event.

Sezin - This day was such a surprise when I first moved to Belgium, I had no idea that it was celebrated until then. It is nice to see that other countries also have this tradition.


Karen said...

BBE, I loved reading your description of this event and comparing it in my own mind to America's Memorial Day, which often can just be about fun and not necessarily evoking memories of our departed family in such a community-oriented way. Great post - and the pictures are terrific!

Fatbrideslim said...

I had never heard of this being celebrated in Belgium. I am going there tomorrow so I will keep a look out for anything related to All Saint's Day.

It's funny, we live so close by but yet we don't have this tradition here.

Thanks for sharing :)

Anonymous said...

How curious that chrysanthemums are so popular and the flower of choice. I'm sure there's some sort of symbolic meaning. Lovely pictures and post!

BBE said...

Karen - I've heard of Memorial day but don't know much about it. I will have to find out more. Glad that you enjoyed the post.

Lily - Visit any cemetery (apart from the military ones) and you will see what is going on but don't expect to be able to park near a cemetery :)

Alison - I'm not sure if the chrysanthemums have any significant meaning or just became popular because this is the time of year that they are in bloom. I'll have to check that out.


Anonymous said...

The flowers look so lovely. A wonderful contrast to the rather somber looking gravestones. For me it seems strange that a visit to a cemetery can be a celebration. This blog tour is a real eye opener.

Emmanuelle Archer said...

Seeing chrysanthemums in gardens and supermarkets here in Canada was a bit of a shock at first... in France, they are exclusively associated with cemeteries and All Saints' Days. Not the kind of plant you'd bring into your home or give as a hostess's gift!

I think that mums are a symbol of eternity (at least that's what they mean in Japan). On a more practical level, they also have the advantage of being hardy and low-maintenance - so you don't have to go back to the cemetery every day to take care of them.

BBE said...

Judy - it is a strange thing to say but the cemeteries look beautiful at this time of year.

Emmanuelle - When I first moved to Belgium I wondered why no one planted them in there gardens. Thanks for telling me about chrysanthemums as an eternity symbol, that makes a lot of sense, I will investigate that further.


*lynne* said...

How lovely! Yours is a different take on a holiday that is featured by a few other WBSD participants. nice to "meet" you via WBSD!

Sher said...

Great minds think alike--Sezin and I wrote on this topic, too! But did you notice--we each have a slightly different perspective! :0)

Your photos are beautiful and enjoyed reading how the holiday is celebrated there in Belgium. It sounds very similar to here--along with the mums! Back home, in the States, we have mums in our yards, in the house, etc! But not here in the Czech Republic! I understand why after reading your blog!!!

Have a great day,
Sher :0)

BBE said...

Lynne - It is good to see how the same event differs from country to country and it was wonderful to find your blog through WBSD.

Sher - Thanks Sher. I think that WBSD went really well, well done.


mub said...

We usually took flowers to the cemetery on Memorial Day in the US... I'm glad to know there is a similar day here!

BBE said...

Hi Mub I have been looking into memorial day but mostly the military side so far.


juanitatortilla said...

A little late in this WBSD game, but this cover on Chrysanthemum day is well done.

I suspect such a day of remembering the ones who have passed on transverse all cultures and religion.

Thank you for stopping by my blog. Much appreciated!

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

I think that is just lovely way to celebrate All Saints Day. Thanks for sharing your wonderful photos with us for WBSD!

BBE said...

Juanita - Thanks for telling us about the special markets. It was great to find your blog.

JaPRA - It took me a while to work out how to use your blog but it was worth it in the end. I hope that you get your outfit worked out for the Queens birthday :)


hospitalera said...

Chrysanthemums are also here in Prague very much 'en vogue' on the cemeteries. And the candles by night are beautiful. It seems that the more traditional approach to celebrate the life of the deceased is very much alive and kicking here in Europe (please forgive the pun!) and the more tricky-treaty American approach hasn't really got a foot into the European door ;-) SY

PS My apologies to everybody that left a comment on my own WBSD post, I had to change its 'home' and lost all comments *sniff-sniff*, SY

BBE said...

It's been a bit of an eyeopener, how many countries have some version of this celebration. Thanks for the post about the Christmas fish, that was new to me too.


Chaplain said...

Hi BBE - A few days late, I'm trying to get around all the WBSD bloggers, starting with those like yourself, who have visited & commented on my blog post.

As other have already said, a beautifully written post accompanied by some wonderful photos. Thank you for participating in WBSD.

BBE said...

I enjoyed your post Chaplain. WBSD went off very well.