Chrysanthemums in various colors are placed on the graves in the cemeteries It is traditional for Belgians to bring flowers and visit the graves of deceased relatives prior to or on All Saints' Day. This day is a Belgian national holiday and most stores will be closed while some supermarkets will remain open in the morning. (U.S. Army photo by Christophe Morel, U.S. Army Garrison Benelux Public Affairs)

November begins in Belgium with honoring deceased

CHIÈVRES, Belgium -- As public holiday in Belgium, All Saints' Day Nov. 1 honors all Christian saints. Belgians often celebrate “Toussaint,” its French name, by placing chrysanthemums on the graves of dead relatives as All Souls Day, Nov. 2, is not a public holiday.

At this period, chrysanthemums are available in all flower shops, in all varieties and colors. It is one of the few flowering plants that bloom in the fall and does not need a lot of care.

In many countries, such as Italy, France and Portugal, people place a lighted candle on the graves of deceased relatives. Filipinos traditionally observe this day by visiting the family’s dead and by cleaning and repairing their tombstones. The first day of the Day of the Dead celebration in Mexico, All Saints' Day honors deceased children and infants. Although not a public holiday in the Netherlands, All Saints' Day is observed on the first Sunday in November there.

The first All Saints' Day occurred May 13, 609, when Pope Boniface IV accepted the Pantheon in Rome as a gift from Byzantine Emperor Phocas. The pope dedicated the day as a holiday to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the martyrs. Things turned bad for Phocas the following year, and in 610 he was beheaded by Heraclius who usurped the throne.

In 835, Pope Gregory III moved the holiday to Nov. 1 and expanded it to include the honoring of all saints. In Roman Catholicism, All Saints' Day is a holy day of obligation on which Catholics are encouraged to attend Mass.

Due to the current crisis, relatives of the deceased will have to respect the latest measures to help limit COVID-19 spread.

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