Halloween, which falls on 31st October, has never really been a major event in the French calendar, although there were some attempts to introduce it in the 90’s. At that time many shops supplied Halloween costumes, decorations and foodstuffs. Some towns even organised Halloween processions and trick or treating was starting to become known. However, as in other parts of the world, there was some negative reaction to the idea of “celebrating” evil or scary beliefs just before the 1st of November, All Saints’ Day. All Saints’ Day (La Toussaint) – also known as All Hallows’ Day- is a far more solemn, religious feast, when Christians remember and honour their saints. It is taken very seriously in France and is always a bank holiday. This is also the day the French, like many other nations, traditionally visit graveyards to remember their dead (All Souls’ Day being the day following All Saints’) and to decorate their graves. If you visit any cemetery on this day you will see that they are usually particularly well decorated, often with chrysanthemums. Chrysanthemums, which come in a variety of colours, are very hardy plants that require little care and can survive the low temperatures at this time of year. They are therefore associated with immortality and are traditionally brought to cemeteries in remembrance of the dead. This explains why it is considered extremely bad taste to ever bring a French person a bunch of chrysanthemums as a gift!
Today, Halloween is often considered as simply a marketing gambit to give the shops an extra means of income and something to promote in the period between the summer holidays and Christmas. It really depends on the town or village you live in if it is acknowledged at all. You will probably find in some of the bigger towns and cities shops and restaurants decorated for the occasion, but do bear in mind that not everyone will be prepared for it, and older generations may not even know it at all. So if you and your children do decide to go trick or treating it may be a good idea to check that people in your neighbourhood are expecting you, to avoid disappointment and children leaving empty handed. As far as the “trick” part of trick or treating is concerned, remember to keep the tricks “gentils” since no one here would expect or accept anything else!