As far as I can remember, I never celebrated Halloween as a child. This holiday gradually took root, and even though it's not celebrated by everyone, all French people are familiar with it. Nowadays, I really feel like it has become a ritual for my children's generation. Every year, they are accustomed to celebrating Halloween.
I. Halloween: a bit of history
Halloween is the contraction of "All Hallows Eve," which means "The eve of all Saints." Halloween was originally a Celtic and Gaulish celebration. In the Celtic calendar, the year didn't end on December 31st but on October 31st. It was the last night of the year and was called the Samhain festival.
A. How did it start in France?
Halloween appeared in France in the late 1990s following the launch of a phone named "Olaween." The phone was orange, and its promotion involved the widespread distribution of pumpkins in Paris. Halloween still struggles to establish itself in France because it is perceived as being too commercial. Today, 1 in 3 French people celebrate Halloween in France. However, Halloween-related sales and activities in France have skyrocketed after the Covid pandemic. The French felt a real need to come together and have fun.
II. What do we do for Halloween in Provence?
A. Our first Halloween experience in Provence
When we first arrived in Provence, we lived in a small village called Eguilles. On Halloween, the community organized a big party with workshops and riddles. The children had to gather clues from the workshops, and with these clues, they had to solve the riddles. Once they found the correct answer, the children had to pour the clues they collected into a giant cauldron. If they got the right answer, they won a cup filled with candies. I liked the idea that they only had access to a limited number of candies.
Lily was 4 years old, Tom was 5 years old, and Léo was 7 years old. They loved it! For my part, I have mixed feelings about it due to the small size of the community hall. But seeing my children happy is priceless, isn't it?
Then, the Covid made its appearance (I believe you know what I'm talking about), and last year, we weren't at home. So, we are looking forward to celebrating Halloween this year.
B. Halloween costumes in Provence
Most French people don't know that it's not necessary to wear a scary costume for Halloween. Therefore, you will only come across skeletons, zombies, vampires, or ghosts in the streets of Provence on Halloween. Fairy, knight, or princess costumes will be used for other costume parties like Mardi Gras, for example.
III. Halloween decorations in Provence
In the streets and villages of Provence, Halloween decorations create a magical atmosphere. House facades are adorned with intricately carved pumpkins, orange and black garlands, and cotton spider webs. Shops display handmade Halloween-themed items such as witch hats and scarecrows. Every detail contributes to transforming the streets into a truly terrifying wonderland. However, this is nothing compared to the decorations and street concerts you can find in the United States. I would say that Halloween has become a real event in France, but our way of celebrating it is more restrained.
IV. Halloween in Provence: Modern celebration and respect for traditions
With the influence of globalization, Halloween celebration in Provence has undergone some adaptations. Costume parties in nightclubs and Halloween events in amusement parks are now part of the festive landscape. Despite these changes, the people of Provence remain attached to their cultural roots and preserve the traditions that are dear to them. You still won't find pumpkin pie in stores, but you can always make up for it by enjoying some "navettes" or "calissons."
V. Halloween in Provence: How do we say "Trick or Treat" in French?
It is impossible to translate it literally! The best translation would be "des bonbons ou un sort". I'm also attaching a list of Halloween vocabulary.
Un bonbon A candy
Un déguisement A costume
Se déguiser To dress up
Une farce A prank
Faire peur To scare
Avoir peur To be afraid
Un squelette A skeleton
Une citrouille A pumpkin
Un mort vivant A zombie
Un sort A spell
Une lanterne A lantern
Un fantôme A ghost
Une sorcière A witch
Un vampire A vampire
Une araignée A spider
Une toile d’araignée A spiderweb
If you come to my place for an immersion stay in Provence, I will make you discover the different aspects of Provence: the landscapes and the scents, but also the culture, the gastronomy... while helping you to improve your French. See you soon in Provence!
Virginie In Provence