Monday, 5 November 2007

The twisted ways of "allo, ouin" in France

Halloween has come to France, in a strange semi-twisted way.

There are jack-o-lantern type candles and such in every store but nary an actual pumpkin. Across the street, a kind soul decorated their windows with witches, spiders and ghosts. But the witches are actually kitchen witches. Does that count? And kids are trick-or-treating in broad day light at 1pm! I'm pretty sure that doesn't count since 1) it's broad daylight so totally not scary and 2) no one is home during the day!

My first recollection of Halloween in France are from my au pair days in 1997. I introduced Halloween to a small southern village. The following year, as a young professional, I brought a huge pumpkin to my job on the Champs Elysée and carved it for all to see. I think they thought I was completely nuts.

This year, my friend A was kind enough to organize the Halloween party I was meant to be doing in my house (which is now without a staircase). And as I was preparing for the party, my door bell rang and there were 3 trick-or-treaters standing there with their plastic bags. "C'est pour allo-ouin" they said as I realized I didn't even buy candy since I didn't expect any actual trick-or-treaters. As I closed the door behind them, I felt terrible. What kind of American was I anyway? The next kids would get something, but what? A pack of baby crackers or maybe some raisins or a rice cake?

When my door bell rang again, I recognized one of the kids to be our nanny's son. I pretended not to recognize him - isn't that part of the game ? - and told them to hold on while I pulled out 3 individually wrapped chocolate covered waffles from last week's impulse buy. As I gave each one a waffle, I was surprised to see smiles. And one of the kids said, "oh, you're the first one who's given us anything." I felt so proud for a second then realized, this isn't really Halloween. I can't really see a kid back home being happy with a stupid waffle. What about the twix, the nestle crunch or the milky way? Giving a waffle is like giving our pennies or apples on Halloween (do people still do that by the way?)

It seems that everyone I've spoken to in the past week has asked me the origin of Halloween and then said something like, yeah it was catching on a couple years ago, but now it's almost disappeared. I guess Hallmark's not doing their job very well in France.

And just for fun, here's my little pumpkin doing her thing. In case you're wondering, I was a "China Doll" and Jérôme was Harry Potter with a scar, our crappy kitchen broom and a "magic wand" ie a bamboo chop stick.

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