In the last week of October, New Orleans makes ready for All Saints’ Day — the Day of the Dead. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet, presented by DuPont. Rob Florence is the author of New Orleans Cemeteries: Life in the Cities of the Dead.
“All Saints’ Day in New Orleans is a Catholic feast in remembrance of the dead. And people go to the cemeteries, quite often a day or two or even a week or two before, and the first thing is, they’ll maintain their tombs. They’ll whitewash the tomb, they’ll fix any cracks in the plaster, they’ll grade the soil. And then they start to come, closer to the day, and bring tomb decorations, and on the day, bring flowers.”
At St. Louis #3, one of a dozen or so regional burial ground that serve New Orleans, Rob Florence and I found a woman who was sprucing up the family tomb.
“Right now, I’m just sweeping down the tomb, in preparation for November 1st, which is All Saints’ Day. All my family’s in there, my mother and father and the whole family. It’s a New Orleans tradition, when we always put flowers out. In the early 1800’s, they really made a day of it, to where they’d have picnic lunches and they’d all get dressed up and make a day of it. They’d spend from morning almost till nighttime at the cemetery. In fact now, I’m bringing my grandchildren here, to carry on the tradition, and it’s just handed on down, like everything else in life, you know. Each city or each state has their own little way of doing things.”
November first is All Saints’ Day. In New Orleans, yellow chrysanthemums are the flowers of choice for decorating the family tomb.
Pulse of the Planet is presented by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.