If you’re from the USA or the UK (like me), then while growing up, Halloween was always a good excuse to eat plenty of candy and dress up in cool outfits. But how do the French celebrate Halloween? Here’s a quick history of the day in France, as well as some spooky French Halloween Vocabulary:
How is Halloween Celebrated in France?
Although the celebration of Halloween was never very popular in the past (unless we’re talking about many centuries ago!), since the late 80s/ early 90s, French children have regularly dressed up in costumes and some now even go trick-or-treating.
Ironically, the holiday is generally regarded as being very ‘American,’ in spite of the day finding itself with Celtic (therefore, European) roots. As such, trick-or-treating is not nearly as common as attending a Halloween party.
And when it comes to dressing up, costumes tend to err on side of spooky as opposed to cute. Something that particularly surprised me about Halloween in France, is that it’s quite common for many grocery stores to hold Halloween Displays and pumpkin carving sessions for children in the shop windows!
That being said, it can be hard to find many pumpkin-related ingredients for spooky recipes. For example, one of my American friends recently ended up purchasing tinned pumpkin while she was in the UK recently to avoid the exorbitant costs of regular tinned pumpkin in France. Meanwhile, candy corn can’t really be found anywhere.
Where to celebrate Halloween in France
For those who are looking to celebrate Halloween in France, then there are a few places you should look to visit. The first is that of Disneyland Paris. The world-famous theme park celebrates the entire month of October as a themed Halloween Month (buy your ticket in advance here). This includes all characters dressed in costumes and plenty of spooky rides.
Elsewhere in the Île de France region, Les Fermes de Gally hosts an annual pumpkin carving festival known as ‘La Fête de la Citrouille’, while theme park, Parc Asterix, to the North of Paris also holds annual celebrations. When it comes to the 31st of October, the second largest theme park in France is transformed into the haunted village, ‘Peur sur le Parc’.
Perhaps more surprisingly, the underrated and often overlooked city of Limoges in South Western France is one of the places to most have embraced the day within l’Hexagon. Each year since 1996, an annual parade is held where people dress up in all things spooky. There’s also a festival, Halloween themed parties and story-telling events all over the city.
All Saints’ Day: La Toussaint in France
The 1st of November, i.e. the day after Halloween, is known as All Saints’ Day and is a National Holiday in France. In French, this day is called ‘La Toussaint’. This traditional Catholic celebration is for all Saints, known and unknown and was originally intended to be for those saints who did not have a holy day of their own.
In France, Toussaint is marked by families mourning their dead and visiting cemeteries, bringing chrysanthemums with them (in the past, this was one of the few flowers to still bloom in November). Throughout the country, you’ll find chrysanthemums for sale. For this reason, the flower is most associated with death.
French Halloween Vocabulary
La Toussaint: All Saints’ Day
Le Trente et un Octobre: The thirty-first of October
Une toile d’araignée: A spider’s web
Une araignée: A spider
Une bougie: A candle
Sculpter une citrouille: to carve a pumpkin
Les canines de vampire: Vampire Fangs
Des bonbons ou un sort: Trick or Treat! The French would never actually say ‘trick or treat’. Instead, this phrase is literally translated as ‘candies or a spell’.