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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