Sunday, 9 November 2008

All Saints' and All Souls'

As you may have guessed, Croatia is a rather Catholic country. Therefore there is a distinct absence of feral children dressed up as witches and ghouls harassing neighbours for toxic confectionery on the 31st October. Instead the 1st and 2nd November are a national holiday set aside for remembering departed family members and visiting graveyards. In order to honour those lost, flowers are an appropriate gesture so cemeteries and houses are strewn with blooms. But not just any blooms, oh no. The wonderful chrysanthemum has been bestowed with the dubious honour of a flower of remembrance, to the extent that in the village of St Philip and Jacob just outside Zadar, the name in their dialect for chrysanthemum roughly translates as “dead man’s bloom”. And the markets are chock full of them in anticipation for the start of November.

Now, muppet me, visiting the market to buy some flowers for a hostess of a pending dinner party, was delighted by the flowers that were everywhere but in a moment where vigilance on my part was lacking, did not notice the common theme: chrysanthemums. I bought a particularly lovely bunch and that evening sallied on to the soiree and only half way to the social event in question did divine inspiration strike and the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. I was taking my kind hosts a bunch of blooms that in Croatia signify death or at least that the end of a terminal illness is looming. Not the most auspicious of starts to an event more associated with merriment. Bugger. Needless to say the “muppet foreigner from a secular / protestant country” card was played and much laughter ensued once a couple of bottles of wine had been imbibed.
On a lighter note I did learn that my particular choice of chrysanthemum is called a Bekerica as they look like tennis balls and the most famous tennis player of them all is apparently a certain Mr. B. Becker.

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