If you have been anywhere outside your front door this last week, you can’t have failed to notice evidence of an approaching event which seems to become more visible every year – Halloween.
The history of how we have come to mark this date in Britain is long and complicated, but whether you’re in favour of ‘trick or treating’, wearing ghoulish costumes, taking part in a religious observance, or just having some family time with apple-bobbing and pumpkin-carving, it would be true to say that most cultures across the world mark something similar at this time of year – Allhallowtide, All Hallow’s Eve, Hallowmas, The Mexican Day of the Dead, All Soul’s Day. What these events share is that in some way – typically by laying flowers and gifts on the graves of our ancestors – they all commemorate and pay public respect to the dead.
Flowers are the very symbol of how quickly life passes, beautiful one moment, gone the next, colourful, but temporary. Each culture, from Fiji to Fife, Mexico to Malaysia, seems to claim a different flower for it’s own tradition. In Mexico, at the three day festival leading up to The Day of the Dead, the traditional flower of choice is the marigold.
In France, pots of chrysanthemums are placed on the graves, creating a beautiful spectacle of yellows, golds and reds. In fact, because they are an autumn flower, chrysanthemums are popular across the Northern hemisphere, often accompanied by a candle or a symbolic loaf of bread. Some traditions favour wreaths, others more extensive creations which include decoration, photographs, gifts of alcohol or milk. In Germany, evergreens are worked into the church yard arrangements perhaps to suggest that in the face of death, life goes on.
Needless to say, this is a very busy time of year for florists. Whether your event is traditional to your faith, or more pagan in spirit, I like to combine the rich seasonal colour palette, autumn shades, British blooms, natural evergreens, and interesting floral materials to create special impact for Halloween.