1-Halloween is considered an American celebration (and that’s not a compliment)
Despite the fact that Halloween actually originates from Europe- and is believed to be of Celtic origins, Halloween is seen as yet another imposition of American culture on French customs and traditions right after McDonald’s and Ketchup.
This alone is enough to make many French people turn their patriotic nose up at the idea of celebrating and embracing Halloween.
You might also be interested in this Why The French Hate Halloween and How To Celebrate It Anyways!
2-Very few children go door-to-door trick-or-treating in France
In all the years we have lived in France, we have never had more than 2 or 3 groups of children knock on our door at Halloween. Some years we get no kids, like the time we lived in an apartment building in Marseille France.
I’m told there are towns in France where Halloween has 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.
3-Many French people see Halloween as a commercial event
Another thing which only adds to the anti-Halloween sentiment is that many businesses and retailers use Halloween as a way to boost their sales and to attract more customers.
For example, food store chains will have an area loaded up with Halloween themed candies. Flower stores will put up Halloween displays. Bars and pubs decorate for Halloween hoping to pull in more customers.
Sure this type of commercialism exists in countries like the US and Canada but the difference is, Halloween is also a community and family based event. At least that is how it was for us when we lived in California.
Not so in France.
Since the majority of kids DO NOT trick or treat in France, the average French person only sees the commercialism part of Halloween. Maybe if more kids started trick or treating in France, more French people would see just Halloween as a family and community based event as well.
4-Halloween is seen as a threat to existing French traditions
The French are fiercely proud about their customs almost to a snobbish fault. Any celebration which disrupts or takes away from those traditions are often seen as a threat not a treat.
Since Halloween is not a traditional French holidays having first been introduced to France in the 90’s, it has the unfortunate luck to occur right in the middle of an extremely big national holiday. “La Toussaint”, known in English as “All Saints” which falls on Novembre 1st. On this day people in France honour the dead by placing flowers on loved ones graves and go to special church events.
Banks, stores and businesses are all closed on this day. School get two weeks vacation leading up to this day.
In the case of Halloween, many French people believe Halloween robs the attention away from this French tradition.
5-Costumes are typically scary and NEVER cute
Unlike in North America where anything goes when it come to costumes for Halloween, what few adults and kids you see dressed up in France will invariably be dressed up in traditionally scary and ghoulish costumes like vampires, ghosts and skeletons.
Costumes of the less scary genre like kitty’s, princesses and ninja turtles are reserved for the carnival festivals in February.
What’s odd about Carnival in France is that the French don’t attach this same negative sentiment towards Carnival as they do towards Halloween despite it’s similarities with Halloween. Most schools even have their own mini parade where everyone gets dressed up. Yet Carnival is openly embraced in French culture and Halloween is not.
6-Halloween parties are more typical than trick-or-treaters
Although our first year in France was uneventful, our second year was not. Partly because we moved out of Marseille and high density apartment living to a small town near Toulon France where our daughter made lots of Friends and had regular play dates.
Blake and I got to know many of the other parents so when one of those parents invited us to their Halloween party- we accepted.
I was surprised to see that there were mostly adults at the party with a few kids.
7- Don’t say trick-or-treat: Instead say this
When a kid comes to the door asking for candy “les bon bons” in France, they don’t say trick or treat. Instead they ask you in French if you would like “Candies or a spell” or “Mischief or sweets”.
- Des bonbons ou un sort ! = Candies or a spell
- bêtises ou friandises = Mischief or sweets
8- French people can’t pronounce Halloween
There are a few sounds French people have a hard time pronouncing. Similar to How English speakers struggle to make the R and the U sound like in the word “RUE” It’s not pronounced “ROO”. In French, most French people struggle with the “TH” sound which when said by a French person, usually sounds like the “D” sound. So the word “this” gets pronounced as “dis”.
The second sound French seem to have a hard time pronouncing is the letter “H”. So “Halloween” usually gets pronounced as “aaa lo ween”.
9-You can’t find candy corn in France
If you hate candy corn like I hate it than 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.
10- Halloween is gaining in popularity
Despite all the anti-sentiment and French naysayers, French people who understand just how fun Halloween can be, do in fact celebrate it.
We’ve really lucked out and had some great fun on Halloween but if you don’t have any friends yet or know anyone who celebrates Halloween, you can just wing it like we used to do when we first arrived in France and just took our kids door to door trick or treating. Just don’t expect many people to have candy on hand when they answer the door.
You could also throw your own Halloween party or if you could take the kids to to local businesses and retail shops who usually hand out candy to kids on Halloween.
Or you could just do nothing.