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On November 1st, All Saints' Day, the cemeteries are visited by thousands. The tombs are ornamented with flowers, china vases, lighted candles and draperies. In the afternoon, in the Catholic cemeteries, services are held.

All Saints' Day, as a holiday of obligation, was e arly appointed by the Catholic Church, but the floral offerings were not a statute of the Church, only the manifestation of a very pure sentiment. As one of the reverend fathers has remarked, "We cover the coffins of our beloved with flowers as a token of our affection; it is not strange we should repeat so beautiful a ceremony, and cover their tombs on one day set apart for the purpose each recurring year. It is said of man, 'He Cometh forth like a flower and is cut down.'"

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It has been suggested that this offering of flowers preserves the memory of the Eastern custom of bringing spices to the tomb, as the holy women did to the tomb of our Lord. The service of All Saints' Day begins with the vespers of the evening before, and we anticipate All Souls' Day by performing the ceremonies that properly belong to that day on All Saints' Day.

A Catholic dictionary, a recent publication, contains the following statements: "All Souls' Day— A solemn commemoration of and prayer for all the souls in purgatory, which the Church makes on the 2d of November. The mass said on that day is always the mass of the dead. Priests and others, who are under the obligation of reciting the breviary, are required to say the matins and lauds from the office of the dead in addition to the office which is said on that day according to the ordinary course, and the vespers of the dead are said on the 1st of November immediately after the vespers of All Saints'. This solemnity owes its origin to the Abbot Odilo of Clugney, who instituted it for all the monasteries of his congregations in the year 998. Some authors think there are traces, at least, of a local celebration of this day before Odilo's time."

It has been suggested that this offering of flowers preserves the memory of the Eastern custom of bringing spices to the tomb, as the holy women did to the tomb of our Lord. The service of All Saints' Day begins with the vespers of the evening before, and we anticipate All Souls' Day by performing the ceremonies that properly belong to that day on All Saints' Day.

A Catholic dictionary, a recent publication, contains the following statements: "All Souls' Day— A solemn commemoration of and prayer for all the souls in purgatory, which the Church makes on the 2d of November. The mass said on that day is always the mass of the dead. Priests and others, who are under the obligation of reciting the breviary, are required to say the matins and lauds from the office of the dead in addition to the office which is said on that day according to the ordinary course, and the vespers of the dead are said on the 1st of November immediately after the vespers of All Saints'. This solemnity owes its origin to the Abbot Odilo of Clugney, who instituted it for all the monasteries of his congregations in the year 998. Some authors think there are traces, at least, of a local celebration of this day before Odilo's time."

About these names and inscriptions are suspended all manner of designs of flower pieces made of beads, like hair-work, in purple, black or white, together with metalic wreaths of flowers, which to touch may alarm a small bright green or brown lizard, and cause it to start from its hiding place beneath, and display its proportions upon the white marble. Newly made tombs are for sale, as a card announces: "Tombe a vendre s' adresser au gardieu du Cimetiere St. Louis."

In October last, a card at one of the entrances contained the following translation of the original in French above it: "Any persons that Wish to have there tooms Repare Fore Saint Day, Will please address to the Sexton."

A wag has said that the song: "See that my grave is kept green," does not apply to New Orleans; but rather: see that my grave is kept white-washed. When an interment takes place in a tenement tomb, the mourners in carnages linger while the casket is placed in the tomb, and until the mason with trowel, mortar and brick, quickly places a wall between it and the outer world, and fastens with cement and screws the marble slab that covers it.

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ALL saints' day.
To see the cemeteries of New Orleans at their best, is to visit them on All Saints' Day, November first. Early in the morning of that day the flower stalls of the various markets are laden with all sorts of made up flower-pieces and bouquets. Ladies, children and servants are hurrying through the streets, laden with huge bouquets of dahlies, chrysanthemums, white daisies and immortelles, full blush and crimson roses, wreaths of green and purple artificial flowers, so real as to deceive the ordinary observer; wreaths of mourning, and bead work of every conceivable design. Laden with these, the crowds wend their way to the cemeteries. It is a legal holiday. At noon the post office and custom-house close their offices. The wholesale houses and general merchants close their doors. The drayman turns the ears of his mules homeward with his right hand, while his left carefully holds a huge bouquet for the adornment of the graves of his dear departed.

In the morning of that day, after high mass at the cathedral, the clergy march in procession to the cemeteries belonging to it and sing the Libera. Long before that hour the grounds are thronged with ladies, children and servants, all busy workers in adorning the houses of the dead. Servants are scouring and polishing the marble; ladies are directing and arranging the disposition of the flowers, richly dressed children are darting here and there with merry voices. The long rows of straight whitewashed trunks of magnolia trees, stand like so many Corinthian pillars, supporting the canopy of green waxy foliage, and roofing completely the white shelled roads beneath, where, moving in dignified procession, are beautiful and stately mothers, followed by their children, and these by neatly dressed servants, holding aloft exquisite floral offerings for the sacred shrines.

Fresh white sand is sprinkled over earth where the grass has not arisen, and from it protrudes fresh pots of flowers. In the streets of tenement tombs, groups of people are industriously working, cleaning, polishing and adorning the limited spot of marble each possesses. Against tomb fronts, huge masses of dahlias and inamortelles are tastefully piled. Banks of bright green glossy palms are handsomely grouped against the white marble, relieved here and there by baskets of full fragrant roses at the doors of tombs.

On this November day, when throughout the North the leaves of the chestnut, maple, and elm have fallen, and those of the oak are dried and brown; in New England, when the withered grass and leaves are coated with a white frost, and the sharp ice crystals are fringing the edges of the ponds, full blush and crimson roses are here diffusing their fragrance and showering their petals over the borders of the walks.

It is All Saints' Day; a day of days at Prytania Cemetery; a bright holy day and holiday, when children, birds, foliage, and flowers combine to link all that is beautiful on earth with the memory of those we love in heaven.

At noon this labor of love ceases, and during the afternoon the throngs come and go until dark.

Of the small cemeteries, the Prytania or Washington Street Cemetery is one of the best kept. It is not exclusive in its denomination, and contains many aristocratic tombs.

The approaches to the cemeteries are lined with flower, fruit and refreshment stands, and near the gates inside, here and there, seated before a small white table, one will see a pleasant-faced nun receiving in a silver plate, money gifts for some named asylum, as Mt. Carmel Female Orphan Asylum, St. Joseph's Orphan Asylum, etc.

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St. Louis Cemetery, No. 1, corner St. Louis and Conti streets, is the oldest in the city, and contains the names of many of the early prominent families, such as Claiborne, Mandcville, Marigney, Tanneret, Rosseau, Rocquet, Denis, Garcia. Here are tombs of Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and French societies. It is noticeable as being the oldest, but it is very much crowded and not as well kept as many other cemeteries. On All Saints' days artificial muslin and paper flowers prevail here, together with decorations of beads. The air on that day resounds with the rapping of sticks upon the silver plates on the tables to call the visitor's attention to the charity it represents, and is filled with the medley of French, Spanish and Italian voices. Before some tombs candles are burning and postulants kneeling. A few aged negro women, with rosaries in hand, may be heard ejaculating their prayers in French.


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The larger portion of the population on All Saints' Day make Greenwood, Metarie Road and St, Patrick cemeteries — which are all grouped together at Canal and Metarie Road — the objective point. At the canal bridge, near the entrance to Metarie Road Cemetery, the crowd becomes a jam. The Ponchartrain railway carries the people by thousands. The streets approaching the gates are like a Parisian fete day, lined as they are with fruit, flower and refreshment stands, whose venders are exceedingly demonstrative. A constant line of carriages are crossing and recrossing the bridge over the canal, which leads to Lake Ponchartrain. Two large refreshment houses are near by, and they are thronged with people. Across the road is Greenwood Cemetery, its most noticeable features being its shade and the Confederate monument which is near the entrance. Its streets of tombs are named after the flowers, such as Myrtle Avenue, Violet Avenue, Acacia Avenue, etc., etc. It is well kept.

"Remember St. Mary's Orphan Asylum" said a small placard, last All Saints' Day, before a white table in front of the large tomb of the Pelican Benevolent Society. Beside the table sat two kind hearted Sisters, flanked by eight little orphan boys, about six years of age. Along came a gentleman with servant carrying baskets.

"Good evening, good Sisters," said the gentleman, in French, "How are my little boys today?" as he droped some silver coin into the plate — sterling silver remembrance of the Orphans of St. Mary's — and now the Sisters must be hungry, and little Leon, Francois and Philip must be hungry too, and so napkins are spread, and there upon the green grass, the gentleman seated his little group and caused a delicious lunch to be spread, when he sat down and gaily chattered with the Sisters, and helped the little orphan boys to a good square meal and packages of bon-bons for themselves and their playmates at the asylum. There was happiness enough in that group to bring tears to at least one looker on, as it illustrated what inspiration the Day of All Saints may give when rightly spent.

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The absence of trees in the older graveyards is due to the fact that in so constricted a space the roots would cause an unsettling of the walls and tombs. Flowers, except cut flowers in vases, and lawns are also lacking, since there is no place for them to grow. However, on All Saints' Day, November 1, Orleanians make up for the lack of flowers, every tomb displaying a remembrance in floral form. The observance of All Saints' Day is a distinctive Creole custom of European origin. Other sections of the country decorate graves on May 30, Memorial Day, or, in Catholic cemeteries, on All Souls' Day, the day following All Saints', but in New Orleans neither of these days is observed in that way. The Confederate dead are remembered on June 3, while Protestants and Catholics alike fill the cemeteries with flowers on All Saints' Day.

In former times the Creole ladies made the day an occasion for the display of winter fashions, and iron benches can still be seen before some tombs where it was the custom for members of the family to sit and receive friends during the day.

During the week preceding November 1, Negroes can be seen hard at work cleaning and whitewashing the tombs. Gilt paint is sometimes used to make more legible the inscriptions on the tombs and on the blocks of marble used as bases for flower containers. New Orleans is flooded with flowers, chiefly chrysanthemums, which have become definitely associated with the occasion. The plants are grown in the city and surrounding countryside, and are sold at hundreds of shops, along with cut flowers imported from California and elsewhere. The floral decorations make the cemeteries gay with spots of white, yellow, and bronze. Here and there painted palm fronds, paper flowers, and ornate wreaths made of beads are to be seen. The same wreath is sometimes brought out year after year. Although a solemn occasion, the city takes on a holiday air. Crowds of people swarm through the burial places. From dawn until dusk the long procession continues, while hundreds of vendors supply refreshments and toys to pacify the children.

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All Saints' Day, as a holiday of obligation, was early appointed by the Catholic Church, but the floral offerings were not a statute of the Church, only the manifestation of a very pure sentiment. As one of the reverend fathers has remarked, "We cover the coffins of our beloved with flowers as a token of our affection; it is not strange we should repeat so beautiful a ceremony, and cover their tombs on one day set apart for the purpose each recurring year. It is said of man, 'He Cometh forth like a flower and is cut down.'"

NEW ORLEANS AS IT IS, WITH A CORRECT GUIDE TO ALL PLACES OF INTEREST, 1885, Bv W. E. PEDRICK.
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New Orleans History, 1897-1917


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