10 Things You Didn’t Know About Halloween In France But Should

Halloween in France: 10 things you didn't know but should

Despite the anti-sentiment surrounding an American style Halloween and the fact that the concept of Halloween is relatively new to France, it is still somewhat celebrated in small pockets throughout France.  Here are a few things you should know before hand which might make your French Halloween more enjoyable.

1-Halloween is considered an American celebration (and that’s not a compliment)

Halloween is seen as yet another imposition of American culture on French customs and traditions right after McDonald’s and Ketchup. This alone is enough to make many French people turn their patriotic nose up at the idea of celebrating or embracing Halloween.

Ironically,  Halloween actually originates from Europe and is thought to be of Celtic origins. In fact, wearing a costume mumming and going door-to-door on certain holidays has existed since the Middle Ages, only people used to perform short plays in exchange for food or drink instead of asking for Candy.

Related: “Why the French hate Halloween”.

2-Many French people see Halloween as too commercial

Another belief which only adds to the anti Halloween sentiment is the belief that this is purely a commercial celebration used to boost the sales of stores and line the pockets of retail store owners with cash.

I believe that these people just don’t understand what or how Halloween is celebrated. They don’t see it as a community based ritual or a great family friendly event where kids and parents get to have fun dressing up as anything they want- go to parties, eat and laugh together.Halloween in France: French people think Halloween is too commercial

If they did, than perhaps they would embrace Halloween as much as they do Christmas, Mothers day and Valentines day. Holidays which are as commercial as Halloween if not more. In fact, I actually find Halloween less commercial than Christmas in France. But hey that’s just me.

3-Halloween is seen as a threat to existing French traditions

The French are fiercely proud about their customs almost to a snobbish fault. Anything or in this case, any celebration which disrupts or takes away from those traditions are often seen as a threat not a treat.

Since Halloween is not a traditional French holidays having first been introduced to France in the 90’s,  it has the unfortunate luck to occur  right in the middle of an extremely big national holiday. “La Toussaint”, known in English as “All Saints”.

November 1st is the official holiday for All Saints Day. On this day people in France honour the dead by placing flowers on loved ones graves and go to special church events. Banks, stores and businesses are all closed on this day.

But all saints is not just a one day event. Children have two weeks off from school beginning mid October up until the 1st of November. I think many anti-halloweeners in France believe Halloween robs the attention away from this French tradition.

4- Very few children go door-to-door trick-or-treating in France

Don’t load up on bags of candy because you’ll be lucky to get any trick-or-treater knocking on your door in France on Halloween.

We have never received more than 3 groups of children knocking on our door on Halloween. I am told there are towns in France where Halloween has taken off but these are the exception and not the rule.

5-Costumes are typically scary and NEVER cute

Halloween in France: 10 things you did not know but should

Unlike in North America where anything goes when it come to costumes for Halloween in France what few adults and kids you see dressed up will invariably be dressed up in traditionally scary and ghoulish costumes like vampires, ghosts and skeletons.

Costumes of the less scary genre like kitty’s, princesses and ninja turtles are reserved for the carnival festivals in February.  I really find it strange how so many French people have such a negative view on Halloween but then celebrate carnival by dressing up during Carnival. They have festivals, parades and celebrations around carnival. Most schools even have their own mini parade where everyone gets dressed up. Yes Carnival is not seen as commercial as Halloween.

6-Halloween parties are more typical than trick-or-treaters

Halloween in France: 10 things you did not know but should

If you are in France and absolutely want to celebrate Halloween,  here are my thoughts.

Make friends who actually enjoy Halloween. In the 4 plus years we’ve lived in France, we have been lucky enough to have French friends who actually love and celebrate Halloween.

If you are not invited to a Halloween party, throw your own. If you’re not in a position to throw your own than check out local bars, many of which may have Halloween themes and specials.

7- Don’t say trick-or-treat: Instead say this

When a kid comes to the door asking for candy “les bon bons” in France, they don’t say trick or treat.  Instead they ask  you in French if you would like “Candies or a spell” or “Mischief or sweets”.

  • Des bonbons ou un sort ! = Candies or a spell
  • bêtises ou friandises = Mischief or sweets

8- French people can’t pronounce Halloween

There are a few sounds French people have a hard time pronouncing. Similar to How English speakers struggle to make the R and the U sound like in the word “RUE”  It’s not pronounced “ROO”. In French, most French people struggle with the “TH” sound which when said by a French person, usually sounds like the “D” sound. So the word “this” gets pronounced as “dis”.

The second sound French seem to have a hard time pronouncing is the letter “H”. So “Halloween” usually gets pronounced  as “aaa  lo ween”.

9-You can’t find candy corn in France

Halloween in France: Candy corn does not exist in France except at specialty stores ;

If you hate candy corn like I hate it than you’ll be happy to learn that candy corn does NOT exist in France. If you really must buy some, you’ll have to order it online at the “American Market” in France.

10- Go with the flow and find other people who celebrate Halloween in France

Halloween in France: 10 things you did not know but should

Despite all the anti-sentiment and French naysayers, French people who understand just how fun Halloween can be, do in fact celebrate it. You just need to know where and how to find them.

If you have kids, you could ask other parents if they plan on celebrating.  You could just wing it like we did this year and go door to door with your kids. Unfortunately, most people did not answer their door and others had no candy. But we still had fun. My two teenage boys went to a Halloween house party and got dressed up as well.

If you make friends, you could luck out like we do every year and have friends who invite you to their Halloween party or you could organize your own halloween party and invite people.

And last but not least, some bars have special themes around Halloween .

To learn more about the origins of ancient and modern Halloween check out this great video from the history channel.

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