Because New Orleans All Saints’ Day tradition is as old as the city itself, we like to reminisce on All Saints’ Days of yesteryear. We’ve looked at All Saints’ Day 1853, 1865, 1878, 1918, and 1945 in the past. This year, we’re time-travelling exactly one century, to November 1, 1917.
The text below is from the New Orleans Times-Picayune, November 2, 1917. Some of the text is improperly microfilmed and thus illegible, but we find the reflections of the day to be compelling nonetheless:
Cemeteries Thronged with Relatives and Friends of Loved Ones Departed
On certain occasions the Latin character of New Orleans comes to the foreground with particular clarity, and vivid examples are given of the French, Spanish, and Roman love of ceremony and custom. The Anglo-Saxon element seems also to have caught the [illeg] by association of culture, for the entire city appeared to have come out for the Feast of All Saints and to pay tribute to the brevity of the world. And it was done in New Orleans own individual way.
From early Thursday morning till dark, the cemeteries were thronged with relatives and friends [with every manner of] floral offering… and by afternoon were few graves that were unadorned by some sign of memory and love. Chrysanthemums were most popular… but other flowers were popular also – lilies, carnations, and wreaths of cedar and laurel.
The Italian tombs were remarkable for their novel types of decorations. One of the handsomest tombs bearing the name of an Italian family was hung with large garlands of jet and purple [illeg] with a silver crucifix enclosed in a crystal sphere as the center of the creative scheme. Another tomb in Metairie Cemetery was almost hidden beneath American Beauty roses.