Halloween in France

Pumpkins, spider webs, ghosts and bats…Halloween, the three millennium old, famous folklore celebration has its roots in the Celtic and Anglo-Saxon world but when and how did it get to France? How do the French celebrate Halloween? Let’s take a closer look.

The Arrival

Some pretend that Halloween was already celebrated by the Gauls under the name of Samain and that it marked the end of the summer and the beginning of the dark season (also the beginning of a new year). On the night between October 31st and November 1st the start of the New Year was celebrated with many druidical rites.

However, Halloween, as a folk celebration, only appeared in France in the 80’s and at that time was only celebrated by the English speaking communities in bars or restaurants. The French only became familiar with Halloween at the beginning of the 90’s. In 1992 the company César who specialized in fancy dress costumes, decided to work on a way to settle in France and market their products but THE year of the massive marketing launching was 1997 when American companies such as Disneyland, Coca-Cola and McDonalds began using Halloween images in publicity campaigns in the country. Even the French telecommunication society France Telecom commercialized an orange cell-phone named Olaween.

The Celebrations

Halloween in France is usually celebrated by young people in costumes going to parties at friends’ places, parties or clubs. The costumes themselves tend to be traditionally “scary” (vampires, ghosts and witches, rather than costumes like princesses, superheroes or even policemen or nurses which are popular in the United States and Great Britain.

Stores and commercial centers decorate their windows and pastry and candy shops sell sweets and chocolate using the theme of Halloween.

French kids also go from house to house trick-or-treating, which is translated as «des bonbons ou des coups de bâton » in French.

Controversial Halloween

Nowadays, Halloween in France is rather controversial, due to several reasons. The main reason is that traditionally, between October 31st and November 2nd, the French, particularly older generations, visit cemeteries, honor saints, and attend religious services. Therefore, Halloween is seen as a distraction and a lack of respect to these celebrations of dead people.

This boycott of Halloween from certain people in France is also due to the fact that the whole celebration is seen as a massive marketing hit organized by the Americans to fulfill their desire to Americanize the rest of the world.

Halloween in France: The End?

Halloween was previously a great success in France; in 2000 it became the third most important celebration in the country right after Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

However, Halloween has been running out of steam for the last 5 or 6 years, having to face much political and religious opposition in the country.

In 2009, Halloween is still in decline; the streets and shops are rarely decorated. Halloween only remains as a pretext for kids to get some extra candy and for teenagers to party.

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