Tuesday, November 3, 2015

How the French do Halloween

Candy and pumpkins, check!
I thought about calling this post "How the French DON'T do Halloween."  But that wouldn't be exactly true.  They do celebrate Halloween, just in there own way.  That is to say, not exactly how North Americans do.

I was looking for some type of accessory for Juliette to be a vampire for her day care party last week.  We were in the biggest supermarket in our city, where they had dedicated an aisle to costumes.  I was surprised that nearly all the costumes were of the scary or dark kind: witches, grim reapers, vampires, skeletons. There were a few pumpkin costumes for the little ones and some called "gothic dolls" which were more like Monster High "light" for young girls.  But what about pirates, cowboys, fairies?  If you want a costume like that in France, you have to go to the toy section, thank you very much.

That is the thing about the French and Halloween.  When they aren't dissing it for being an "American" holiday they are complaining about it only being scary and gory.  My other expat friends have noticed this, too.  No, I tell the French naysayers!  You can be anything you want for Halloween in the US.  When I was a little schoolgirl I was anything from a doctor, tooth fairy, witch or school teacher.  Halloween may indeed have its origins in ghosts and ghouls, but it is also about any costume and being anything you want, for just a day or night.  Kind of like a Halloween American Dream fusion.  And though I did see a few kids dressed in non-scary costumes, the majority of those I saw going door-to-door this year were in black and bloody attire.

Speaking of trick-or-treating, I think I am doing my American parenting thing wrong.  Living in an apartment, I have never actually taken Juliette door-to-door.  When we saw some kids out around 5 pm last Saturday, she was at first perplexed, then wondering why they were all dressed in scary things.  For the record, she was also a cowgirl for the home parties we attended and hosted.  The vampire outfit was more in honor of her favorite TV show du jour, Chica Vampiro.

Those French parents who do not let their kids do trick-or-treating may (rightfully) say it's kind of dangerous.  They might also tell you that they already have a holiday where kids dress up, and that it's not scary (oh, please, stop with the Halloween is scary thing!).  That would be carnaval, the equivalent of mardi gras.  During carnaval children dress as anything, knights and princesses and animals.

Besides, many of my French students tell me, Halloween is just an American thing to make money!  Well, not exactly.  It is Celtic and Anglo-Saxon, but not exclusively American.  Some students make a point in telling me they celebrate All Saints' Day, the day after Halloween, which is a religious holiday.  Ok, so not only is Halloween a money-making opportnity in their eyes, but they have to get all sanctimonious on me!

I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on Halloween, as on so many things.  They will never exactly get my giddiness about dressing up at work for Halloween (Bollywood princess this year) and I will never understand their love of silly slapstick comedians like Jerry Lee Lewis.  Can't we all just get along?

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