Although Halloween originates from Europe and is believed to be of Celtic origins, in France, it’s often viewed as yet another imposition of American culture on French customs and traditions right after McDonald’s and Ketchup. This alone is enough to make some French people snub their noses at the idea of celebrating and embracing Halloween.
Don’t believe me?
Here’s one of many articles you can easily find of French people expressing their frustration with Halloween infiltrating French culture.
“Halloween: «I’m fed of with imposed American ways!») “Halloween: «J’en ai marre des modes américaines imposées!»
That doesn’t mean that everyone hates Halloween in France or that it’s not celebrated in France. However, I think it’s important to understand why some French people might be so averse to this imported holiday.
10 Things You Should Know Before Celebrating Halloween in France
1) Halloween is seen as a threat to existing French traditions
“Halloween is not our culture; we must stop losing our identity and, most of all, borrowing from the anglophones
The French are fiercely proud of their customs, almost to a fault. Any celebration which disrupts or takes away from those traditions is often seen as a threat.
In the case of Halloween in France, first introduced to France around the mid-’90s, some people think it robs the attention away from a traditional French holiday “La Toussaint,” known in English as “All Saints.”
2) Halloween is tied to the Toussaint holiday.
La Toussaint (All Saints Day) is a Catholic celebration and public holiday in France that falls on November 1st, the day after Halloween. Most French workers have November first off, and school children have roughly 2 weeks off starting mid-October and ending the day after Toussaint.
The interesting tie between All Saints Day and Halloween is hidden in its name in plain sight.
Halloween or Hallowe’en, as it used to be known, means “Saints’ evening” and comes from a Scottish term for All Hallows’ Eve: the evening before All Hallows’ Day, also known as All Saints Day.
In other words, Halloween is the eve of All Saints Day.
3) French children rarely go trick-or-treating door-to-door in France
In all the years we’ve lived in France, we’ve never had more than one, maybe two groups of children come knocking. Most years, we get none.
I’ve heard that there are towns in France where Halloween and trick-or-treating have taken off, but these are the exception and not the rule, so don’t load up on bags of candy unless you want to eat most of the candy yourself.
The kids who go trick-or-treating generally go business to business, popping in and out to ask shop owners for candy. We’ve done this in Montpellier, and it was so much fun.
You might also be interested in this: Why The French Hate Halloween and How To Celebrate It Anyways!
4) In general, Halloween is seen as a purely commercial event
I’ve trolled French forums and asked my friends and my friends’ friends what was the one thing they disliked the most about Halloween. Invariably, most of them, even those who enjoy Halloween, agreed that Halloween is too commercial. They don’t like the fact that retailers use Halloween to boost their sales and attract more customers.
Below are some screenshots of conversations from some people in France talking about Halloween.
5) Costumes are typically scary, not cute.
Unlike in North America, where anything goes, costumes in France are typically scary and ghoulish, like vampires, ghosts, and skeletons.
Costumes of the less scary genre, like kitties, princesses and ninja turtles, are more of a carnival costume when kids get dressed up and parade around the school in their costumes around February and March.
6) French people can’t pronounce the word Halloween
I have had countless friends mention that they don’t know how to pronounce Halloween, almost as if it’s just another reason to hate Halloween.
In French, the H is silent, so French people pronounce Halloween without the H like this/AAA-Lo-EEN/.
7) Halloween parties are more typical than trick-or-treaters
Blake and I were lucky enough to make some fantastic friends in France who invited us to their Halloween parties. It’s not commonplace, but it does happen. At the parties we attended, we were the only non-French people.
I was surprised to see that there were very few kids at the parties we attended.
8) You can’t find candy corn in France
If you hate candy corn as I hate it, then 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. Popular candies in France are Haribou, Tagada and Carambar.
9) Night of The Grimacing Beets: The French tradition of carving beets in Lorraine on October 31st.
While Halloween wasn’t introduced to France until the 1990s, the people of Alsace-Lorraine, the old department name for the region in northeast France, have been celebrating something called “Rommelbootzennaat,” on October 31st for hundreds of years.
“Rommelbootzennaat” is a German word in the Alsatian dialect celebrated on October 31, the eve of All Saints Day. It’s also known as “Night of the grimacing beets (Nuit des betteraves grimaçantes) in French.
Night of the Grimacing Beets shares a lot of similarities with Halloween, but according to News outlet France 3, it is older than Halloween.
On this day, children carve grimacing heads out of huge sugar beets, vegetables and even turnips and place them on windowsills, cemeteries and various places to scare passers-by.
Children and adults get dressed up in scary costumes, and some children even go hunting for candy.
You can celebrate with other families at the château Saint Sixte, which hosts the Grimacing beet festival for several days, where kids and families can partake in workshops, shows and tales at nightfall.
Festival des Betteraves grimaçantes 2014 par MyLorraine
10) Some French people love Halloween
Despite all the anti-sentiment around Halloween in France, you can find plenty of things to do and people to celebrate it with.
We’ve lucked out and had some great fun on Halloween in France thanks to friends who love celebrating, but if you don’t have friends yet or don’t know anyone, you can wing it as we used to when we first arrived in France and celebrate at home.
Or you could do nothing.