Halloween in France

There was an attempt ten years or so ago to introduce the French to Halloween. It met at first with some success, born out of curiosity, but now the only signs of the holiday in Paris are EuroDisney posters in the metro, and elaborate decorations in the windows of a few high-end chocolatiers.

Why did Halloween flop in France? I believe it goes to the origins of the holiday itself. The name is a contraction of All Hallows’ Even, the Eve of All Saints’ Day. And in the Catholic calendar, All Saints’ Day, the Toussaint, immediately precedes, and is associated with the Day of the Dead, when families go pray on the tombs of their ancestors.

In France, this is a time to remember departed loved ones, not gorge on candy or have fun with scary costumes. This is in my opinion the true reason why Halloween couldn’t succeed in France: it was deeply anticlimactic.

Does it mean you can’t find pumpkins in France? Certainly you can. My grocery store has plenty of them, but they are not suitable for jacks o’lanterns: they are sold by the slice, to make soup. A very easy recipe: dice the flesh, boil with some potatoes and an onion. Add salt and spices to taste. Blend when cooked. Light, delicious, and the color is gorgeous.

Still life with Pumpkin by François Bonvin

Still life with Pumpkin by François Bonvin

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12 Comments to “Halloween in France”

  1. Ken says:

    Halloween is not an Australian tradition either. However, there has been an annoying push for it to be celebrated here. I blame both the Roseanne TV show, which always featured outrageous costumes (including one of a headless Marie Antoinette), and childhood greed for free, tooth-destroying sweets (here called lollies). The Australian version of Jo-Ann’s sells tacky costumes, and other outlets sell Halloween-themed sweets. Fortunately, I now live out in the country and am not pestered by trick-or-treaters. On the other subject, pumpkin soup is very popular in Oz. Pumpkin scones, too.

  2. This is an easy way to make carrot soup,too!I Have to have a pat of real butter & a splash of cream & a touch of sage! Delicious! The painting is so beautiful! I’ve fallen in love with it!!!!

  3. Still life with pumpkin, by François Bonvin. Great work, isn’t?

  4. steph says:

    what is the name of this artwork?

  5. Catherine Delors says:

    Looks like Chardin, doesn’t it? But no, this is an illustre inconnu by the name of Francois Bonvin. Terribly tough to find a good still life with pumpkins in France…

  6. Last year La Mere du Famille went all out with quite sophisticated choco molds of elegant witches and cats etc.
    This must be a Chardin painting is it not?

  7. Catherine Delors says:

    I will have to check out Patrick Roger, Felio!

  8. Felio Vasa says:

    My brother was born on Halloween so needless to say we had great parties.

    The soup sounds fantastic & I’ll have to agree with Catherine- the chocolatiers windows in Paris were simply gorgeous! We were in Paris last year this time & found the displays at Patrick Roger Chocolatier (108, blvd Saint-Germain 6e) was simply stunning. With an autumn garden theme with chocolates made in carrots & squashes.
    I just appreciate the arts that holidays produce.

  9. Catherine Delors says:

    I don’t hate Halloween but, as a mother, the candy aspect worries me. All those cavities in the making! When my son was younger I would always throw away much of it on the sly. I remember a Cher movie (Mermaids?) where she gave trick-or-treaters travel-size tubes of toothpaste instead of sweets. Great idea.
    And another great idea was to have the kids dress as their patron saints!

  10. Richard says:

    I wish it would die that death here as well. I truly hate it.

    I grammar school the nuns used it for us to dress like our patron saint.

    I rather prefer that.

  11. Catherine Delors says:

    It is, Elena! And so simple to make.

  12. That soup sounds wonderful.

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