In heavily Catholic New Orleans, All Saints Day (November 1) and All Souls' Day (November 2) have been observed for centuries through rituals celebrating life over death.
During the Yellow Fever epidemics in eighteenth century New Orleans, death always loomed close. It's presence left the lasting impression on this city and its inhabitants that life is a gift, perhaps fleeting, and should be enjoyed to its fullest each day. And so, on All Saints Day and All Souls Day, New Orleanians honor the lives of their dead loved ones by painting tombs with brilliant whitewashes, placing yellow chrysanthemums and red coxcombs on graves and ringing statuary with immortelles (wreaths of black glass beads). On these days, cemeteries throughout the city are alive with the flickering glow from fields of candles, as death is forgotten and lives lived are celebrated.
It is one of the many rich New Orleans' traditions, for we can imagine no other city which has turned such tragedy into such a joyous celebration of life.
(copy courtesy of InternationalHouse Hotel, New Orleans)
And for my own father, who I know watches over me and my siblings from above, I light this candle on this day in remembrance of his full and beautiful life.