I grew up in North America. I also grew up with a parent who was a dental hygienist, meaning I rarely got to eat candy or sugary snacks. For these reasons, as well as many others, Halloween was one of the most important days of the year when I was child. It was a sacred day; a day when I could dress up, go trick or treating, watch some fireworks, and eat as much candy as I possibly could before October 31st was once again a whole year away.
My love for Halloween did not diminish when I grew out of trick or treating. On the contrary, I loved the fact that I was now the one handing out candy to children in adorable costumes. And to this day, I love watching all of the classic Halloween movies and television specials in the lead up to October 31st. Yes, I’m one of those people who thinks that Hocus Pocus is a cinematic masterpiece, and no, I will not be changing my mind on this any time soon. All in all, it’s safe to say that I love Halloween. And when I first moved to France, I was eager to see how the French celebrated this important (to me) holiday. Sadly, I was in for a rude awakening.
At this point, I should note that I was actually invited to a Halloween party my first year in France. And it was great! However, that was the only sign I saw of Halloween that season. I was the only one in a costume on the Metro on my way to the party, and as I walked the streets of Paris, there was nary a pumpkin, ghost, or ghoul to be seen. I later learned that in France, Halloween is seen as an overly commercialized American holiday, and therefore it is not widely celebrated. Instead, All Saint’s Day is the big holiday, celebrated every November 1st. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t sad about this discovery. But that’s life when you’re an immigrant in a foreign country. Everything is different, including holidays and celebrations.
I’m now almost a decade into my life in France, I had long since given up on big Halloween celebrations in this country. But this year I noticed something strange. As we headed into October, Halloween decorations started popping up in stores. Not the massive displays that you will find in North America. But the very existence of Halloween displays at all was unusual enough to catch my attention. Since then, I’ve found Halloween displays all over the city. And even more surprising, I started to see some adverts for Halloween events. I finally checked the official city listings, and it turns out there’s whole pages dedicated to Halloween events in Paris. It’s a pumpkin miracle!
I don’t know if all of this means that Halloween is suddenly going to be as big in France as it is in North America. I’m certainly not expecting hordes of trick or treaters in my neighbourhood any time soon. But it is part of a larger trend I’ve noticed over the past several years. Since moving to France, I’ve watched as North American holidays and/or events have become more and more prominent in this country. Every year the Valentine’s Day displays get a little bigger. The concept of Black Friday has caught on with a vengeance among French retailers. And last year I even saw one or two hints of Thanksgiving decor.
If I’m being honest, I can’t say I’m entirely thrilled with this North American invasion. Especially the ever increasing pervasiveness of Black Friday every year. But Halloween? I’ll take more of that holiday in any way I can. Everything about it fills me with such a warm sense of nostalgia, and I love it. If France wants to get on the Halloween train, that’s just fine by me.
Happy Halloween everyone!
Laura Moore is a professional storyteller who loves history and the many stories that make Paris one of the most fascinating cities in the world. Join one of her signature tours to learn the story of a city.