Halloween in France, Ooooooo Scary!

Pumpkins at a French MarketHalloween originated among the Celts in Ireland, Britain and (yes!) France as a pagan Celtic harvest festival. Although other nations continued to observe Halloween throughout the centuries, the original pagan traditions of the Brittany region faded into obscurity long ago.  Until recently, the mention of Halloween in Paris was quite rare.  Parisian children may have heard of the holiday through foreign visitors or expatriates, but for the most part, they never carved pumpkins, dressed up in ghoulish costumes or went 'trick or treating'.

This has changed.  Today, partly due to commercialism and the spread of American pop culture, the delightfully spooky holiday has seen a resurgence in French popularity. More and more cafes and bars are celebrating it American-style. Teens swarm McDonald's  (the iconic emblem of all things American) on Hallow's Eve, and Disneyland Paris is also a cool place to be come October 31st.

Masque d'Halloween en chocolatIn the late 1980s and early 1990s, costumed people of all ages slowly began to attend Halloween parties at friends' homes, bars, restaurants or clubs. French children tend to prefer traditionally scary costumes (e.g. ghouls, ghosts, vampires and witches) as opposed to glitzy or humorous pop star, princess and clown outfits. The growing demand for jack-o'-lanterns during Halloween has been a boon for pumpkin growers. There is even a pumpkin patch at a farm outside of Paris where people can pick their own.  Pastry chefs and chocolatiers have hopped on the bandwagon, decorating their shop windows with fiendishly tempting sweets and chocolate masks.  For the first time in French culture, candies are being sold in bags of individually wrapped pieces, presumably to encourage trick-or-treating.

Halloween in France a wonderful day to visit cemeteries where tombs are lavishly decorated with flowers and personal items. In general, cemeteries in France are more elaborate than their American counterparts, so if you enjoy etching grave stones, reading elderly epitaphs and taking eerie photographs, you'll be in Halloween heaven.  Of course, whenever you visit a cemetery anywhere in the world, be sure to show a quiet respect for the dead and the locals who may be mourning.

As always in French culture, there is a flip side to every coin.  Because modern-day Halloween is seen as an American celebration, some French people refuse to enjoy it, having decided to include it in their anti-American boycott. It isn't a boycott against America so much as a stance against unbridled consumerism and commercialism, which have become pillars of American culture. It remains to be seen whether or not Halloween in France shall be a passing fad or grow roots.  Either way, interestingly and ironically, the French have been celebrating the ideas at the very heart of Halloween (e.g. respect for the dead) for centuries. At our core beliefs, the French and the American are not so different, or so it seems.

If you intend to experience Halloween in France, it is best to visit the larger cities like Paris and Nice. Be sure to make your hotel arrangements well in advance, remembering that the day after Halloween (November 1st, All Saints' Day) is a major French holiday.  Most shops and public monuments will be closed in observation.  All Saints' Day is the day in which the French honor their dead, bringing flowers to cemeteries in remembrance. It is also a day for honoring saints and attending religious ceremonies. School is not in session and most businesses are closed.

For more Halloween thrills French-style, be sure to visit our article on the skulls and bones far below Paris: Tour the attraction most Parisian never visited: The Catacombs!

French Family Enjoying Halloween     French Trick-or-Treat

Comments

Pumpkin Patch

Everyone is talking about a pumpkin patch some where outside of Paris where you can pick your own. Can anyone please tell me the town it is in? This is my daughter's first Halloween in France and would like to keep up our traditions of carving our pumpkin.

Thank you for you help.

Pumpkin Farm

You can try the "Ferme de gally" in the Yvelines - 78870 Bailly

http://www.ferme.gally.com/_cueillette-acces-horaires-cueillette-de-gally

It's a place where you can pick vegetables as it's your own farm, you just have to pay at the end.
It's a great place for (urban) kids, by the way.

pumpkins

Where can I find pumpkins for carving? I tried the Marais, epiceries, and an american store and no luck...! thanks. Anna