All Saints’ Day, known as La Toussaint across the French-speaking world, is celebrated on the first of November. A Christian festival in which believers join together to pray for their deceased loved ones, the tradition also helps to bring families together to spiritually contemplate life.
The religious significance of ‘All Saints Day’ reminds Christians that human life on earth ends with total life in heaven, epitomising the strength of Christian hope before death. The presence of heavenly saints on this particular day light the path forward, guiding and helping mortals. All Saints’ Day is a joyous occasion in which believers are called to share the wonder of God.
La Toussaint is a respected tradition in Guadeloupe, and one that is taken very seriously, both for its religious and cultural connotations, marking it as one of the most important events in the Guadeloupean calendar. The day is spent cleaning, repairing and repainting the tombs in the cemeteries. La Toussaint is an occasion for families to join to celebrate the lives of deceased loved ones. It is tradition to illuminate the burial sites of the dead with dozens of coloured candles and flowers.
Even though this day often represents a day of mourning and sorrow in France, in Guadeloupe it seems to be the opposite. Contrary to belief, the day is not at all gloomy. The commemoration of deceased loved ones is an important cultural event and the tradition is still very much alive and colourful. Each family has a unique way of celebrating the day. Camionettes serve rum, bokits, and sorbets, profiting from the hordes of visitors in the cemeteries. In some vigils, memories of the deceased are evoked by humming to the rhythm of the Ka. There is a festive and joyous atmosphere, far from the often-gloomy vigils in the Metropole.
As the sun sets and darkness falls, thousands of multicoloured candles cast a flickering glow over the hilled cemeteries, creating a magical and peaceful atmosphere. It is a touching and sentimental way in which to honour the dead, and a moment to appreciate being a part of an important Guadeloupean tradition.