All Saints Day
Decorating the tombs at St. Louis No. 1 Cemetery for All Saints Day, 1893.
Decorating the cemeteries on All Saints Day has been a New Orleans custom since the
city's first cemetery opened in 1742.  More widely observed than in most other places in
the country, this custom continues, though somewhat more subdued today.  In times
past, whole families faithfully gathered at the cemetery to clean, white wash and repair
the tombs of their family members.  They brought a basket of food and took a break
from their labors to have lunch right there in the cemetery.  After the work was
completed, a bouquet of flowers (chrysanthemums were the most popular choice) was
placed on the tomb.  This was often done a day or two ahead of time, so that on the
morning of November 1st, the cemeteries were magnificent sights to behold, each tomb
glistening white in the sun, and colorful flowers everywhere, as far as the eye could
see.  I'll never forget the first time I observed this from a vantage point where the entire
cemetery could be seen at a glance.  It was an amazing sight.   -- Nancy
Most of the pictures on this page are from St. Louis No. 1 Cemetery, a few from St. Louis No. 2.  
With the exception of the image above, taken in the 1920's, the photos are from the 1930's - 1940's.
Above and several photos below show the cleaning and decorating of the
tombs in preparation for All Saints Day, and the placing of flowers at the tombs.
Below:  The crowds being as big as they were, and the entrepreneurial spirit being what it
is, it wasn't long before vendors of all kinds began hawking their wares just outside of the
cemetery gates, from flowers and cleaning supplies, to toys and candy for the children.  
The people I've spoken to who were there in those times said the atmosphere outside of the
cemetery was almost festive.  But they said that inside the cemetery, families took a
tremendous amount of pride in cleaning and decorating their families' tombs, as a way of
honoring those who had gone before them.