Take Me Back to New Orleans
International House helps spirits find their way home
All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day
In New Orleans, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day have been observed for centuries through special rituals that celebrate life over death. No other city has turned tragedy into such a joyous celebration, and this year, International House continues its customs of observing the city’s distinct rituals, specifically this most spiritual tradition, by honoring the lives of a few creative, courageous, and gifted heroes, who over the past year, experienced unexpected deaths.
This year, for All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, International House, New Orleans’ original boutique hotel, will honor the lives of those American icons who we tragically lost in 2018: Anthony Bourdain, John McCain, Aretha Franklin, Kate Spade, Charles Neville, and Stephen Hawking. A temporary lobby portrait exhibit will pay tribute to these fallen heroes. True to International House’s commitment to praise the practices of New Orleans, the portraits will be veiled black sheer, keeping with the city’s ritual for this truly New Orleanian holiday, and paying respect to its subjects’ important contributions to our nation’s cultural fabric.
During the 18th century yellow fever epidemics, death always loomed close in New Orleans, and its presence left a lasting impression on the city’s inhabitants – that life is a gift, perhaps fleeting, and should be enjoyed every day to its fullest. And so, on All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, New Orleanians pay tribute to the past existence of deceased 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). Cemeteries throughout the city come alive with the mesmerizing glow of flickering candles, as will the hotel lobby and Loa bar.
At Loa, creative director Alan Walter offers a literal take on the ritual, through the cocktails name, Reposado in Pace, and the spirit itself, Reposado Mezcal. The smoky libation is served neat, wreathed with Yellow and Red Edible Flowers, and paired with a small portion of Pecan Milk, a liquid that Walter hand pressed from Louisiana Pecans. The ashen hue of the milk echoes the act of painting tombs with whitewashes, the flowers a nod to the yellow chrysanthemums and red coxcombs that cover graves across the city.
These customary holidays, entrenched in the Catholic religion, are quintessentially New Orleans, a city that embraces life as a gift. All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day is one of seven rich New Orleans traditions observed each year at International House. This distinct celebration of life over death will honor an architectural icon and ritual at the city’s premier boutique hotel from October 26 through November 2, 2018.