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France celebrates All Saints' Day as grave prices skyrocket

Visitors walk inside the Calvaire cemetery, Paris' smallest cemetery, near the Sacre-Cœur Basilica (background) in Paris on November 1, 2018, on the All Saints' Day.
Visitors walk inside the Calvaire cemetery, Paris' smallest cemetery, near the Sacre-Cœur Basilica (background) in Paris on November 1, 2018, on the All Saints' Day. AFP

France celebrated Toussaint (All Saints' Day) on Thursday, as families visited cemeteries all over the country to pay respect to their lost ones. Meanwhile in Paris, the rising prices of burial plots have been forcing people to bury their dead outside the French capital.

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As Mexico celebrates the Day of the Dead, France celebrated Toussaint (All Saints' Day) on Thursday - a public holiday in the country.

The Celtic origins of celebrating the dead

The Catholic All Saints' Day historically celebrates all saints in the Catholic Church, both known and unknown.

According to scholars, it was in the 8th century AD that Pope Gregory ordered the festival to be held on 1 November, to coincide with the Celtic festival of Samhain.

November 2nd became All Souls Day, which later merged with Samhain to become modern-day Halloween, thus losing its Catholic connotation.

Samhain was an ancient Celtic festival that marked the coming of winter each year, and honoured the world of the spirits.

During Samhain, rituals around a bonfire opened up the material world to the world beyond.

Therein lies the origins of honouring and celebrating the dead during All Saints Day and Halloween.

Prices of Parisian burial plots skyrocketing

On All Saints' Day, French newspapers highlighted the rising prices of graves in Paris.

A burial plot in a Parisian cemetery costs around 16,000 euros.

Parisians are thus resorting to burying their dead outside the city, or choosing other options such as incineration.

Paris's Père Lachaise cemetery, for example, has 70,000 graves, but they are all reserved for the wealthy or the famous.

Famous figures like Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Frédéric Chopin and Edith Piaf are all buried there.

According to the Paris town hall, the situation dates back to the 18th century, when there was a steep rise in Paris' population.

To counter the situation, burial plots in Paris are now being let out for decades at a time, rather than for life.

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