Whereas in metropolitan France, All Saints day is a sad and grievous event, in the West Indies it is a period for celebrating and gathering. For the occasion, cemetaries fill with people and are lit up to evocate the memory of the deceased. It is a surprising and magical, almost unreal.
Death is at the center of the cultural practices which characterize the nation. The West Indies have a specific relationship with the deceased where the pain of the separation of the loved one quickly gives way to evocating the happy celebration of the life of the deceased. The funeral vigils are an opportunity to assemble the entire family, friends and acquaintances of the deceased where, although tears may be shed in the funeral parlor, on the terrace, an important or amusing story should be told to illustrate the personality of the deceased as if to make him/her come back to life in the memories of the participants assembled. They evocate the happy memories as if to ward off death, who is wandering by to check on the joie de vivre. Sometimes, people go as far as to sing the merits of the deceased to the traditional tunes of the Ka, accompanied by tambourines. Coffee and drinks are plentiful and the atmosphere quickly has nothing in common with the funeral vigils of metropolitan France with their heavy atmosphere.
For All Saints day, things are similar. Families get together in cemeteries, clean, repaint, take care of and of course, put flowers on the graves of the deceased like in metropolitan France. Then when night falls, the graves are covered with numerous red and white candles. The sight of these cemeteries lit up by these numerous candles is absolutely magical. The cemetery of Morne à l’eau, in Guadeloupe, which is already surprising with its black and white graves is one of the most beautiful to admire for the occasion because it rises in tiers like a theater in an arch on the hillside.
In the aisles people greet, shout at each other and talk in small groups. The dead are spoken about as much as the living. The atmosphere is not sad and the many travelling merchants take advantage of this festive ambience to offer traditional pistachios, snowballs, bokits and coconut sorbets to nighttime visitors.