Well, the Americans have shoved Halloween up everybody's noses in the UK and now it's France. I know it was a Celtic thing originally and maybe came from one of these 2 countries but, do we all have to have it in our faces, just like McDonalds? (incidentally after the US, France eats more of this crap than any other nation!).

Brian has a mind like a bottomless pit, full of information, some useful and some a load of rubbish but i'ts all in there.........somewhere !

Religion, customs, folkways, festivals and so on are part of my discipline. I worked in South America for a long time where the All Saints, All Souls and the rest of it are blended with indigenous beliefs making Halloween seem tame. They go to visit the dead, lift the stone off the top of the grave to expose the remains. Even generations nearly 100 years in their graves are often well preserved in the rarefied, dry crisp mountain air. That's when you find out, like just checking...

I wish I could share this story in French with my neighbors who permitted their kids to destroy all our preparations for a little party for the tiny tots around here. We were mostly doing duck apple and snap apple, with punch and scary ghosties in the trees.

Churlish is the word that comes to mind when I hear all the grumpy complaints against American influences, such ignorance of Celtic and Christian history.

Best thing about Hallowe’en is its coincidence with the turn of the clock. I am already fed up with the dark evenings and will celebrate anything with candles.

Could not have said it better myself, unless I would be Brian.
Where does he get his info? Is it all in his head, eh Brian?

Goodness Gerald, you sound like a boring old fart !

I suppose Christmas isn't celebrated Chez Stubbs either, what with it being religious 'mumbo-jumbo' ?

That’s the whole point of it. toussaint is a national Holiday , folk all over France buy chrysanthemums and flowers and take them to the family grave. There is a big service in church as well. Toussaint means all saints, meaning all Christians here. All souls, the next day remembers the dead.

I have just been reading about how Toussaint (1st November) used to be observed in the Couserans and Comminges areas of the Pyrenees. 'On honore les morts de la maison qui reviennent pour une nuit parmi les vivants, en les nourrisant et en les rechauffant.' A log was kept burning in the hearth all night to warm the dead on their return, and food such as cheese, meat and nuts was left for them. This offering assured the living that they would have sufficient heat and food to see them through the winter. (The Church sought to change this practice, but evidently wasn't opposed to the bit about offerings of food - rather neatly, these were supposed to be left next to the church door for the ultimate benefit of the priest.)

So if you live in an old French house, you might want to leave a log burning and provide some refreshment - you never know who might put in an appearance!

Non event here - we don’t even bother putting anything up in the shop, did a few years ago but it just doesn’t do it, fortunately!

Holly, nice to meet a fellow American on the forum. Brian, thanks for the comprehensive history. By the way, my now grown five children (all living in New England) tell me they miss the pumpkin carving I used to do with them every year…Connecticut field pumpkins are nearly hollow and make the best jack-o-lanterns and Super U in my area carries them. So in honor of my children each year I still carve one and set it outside on the windowsill to ‘keep the spirits away’ - their original purpose. It makes me happy and reminds me of lovely times in my own and my childrens’ lives. Shame we Americans can’t export that feeling!

Thank you Katherine for responding so eloquently. I too am American and I hardly feel as if I am throwing Halloween in anyone's face. I have lived in France for 6 years. I put up a tiny decoration on the mantle the first year and haven't since. As a matter of fact, a few of my French husband's friends are coming over on Halloween coincidentally and hopefully asked if the whole place would be decorated just because I am American. My French husband is debating on whether or not to go to the French GiFi to pick up several of the numerous Halloween decorations they have there so that we can accommodate.

Granted, I do have a three year old and another on the way, and I WOULD like them to know what Halloween is. I'm not going to take them Trick-or-Treating, but I would like to have a Halloween party for both kids and adults, maybe set up a "haunted house" and dress the kids up in costumes. That was always the fun part for me that came after the trick-or-treating when I was a kid.

As for McDonald's, blah. I'm a Burger King fan myself and am glad that they will be taking over Quick, not that it will be within a 10 minute drive for me to get to, so I'll just have to be content that there will be one there if I REALLY need a Whopper Junior at some point!

My husband was born on the stroke of midnight on October 31st (his mum's hospital bed was facing the town clock and it started to chime just as he was born), so we have no option but to join the rest of the world that celebrates Halloween. I do carve a pumpkin (purchased yesterday) and have spider webs and other halloween decorations - but its just for us really. I lived in the US for 5 (very long years) and my children, although in their teens at the initial move, enjoyed participating in the student halloween pranks and now they take their children (in the US) out to chosen friend's houses for Halloween. It is just a bit of fun, although taken seriously by our Celtic ancestors.

All Saints Day is very important here in Charente, and we have promised our elderly French neighbour to take her to church that day for mass and invited her to a bean-meal for All souls Day (November 2nd.) There are some wonderful recipes for All saints cakes and beans and lentils etc. for All Souls.

I think any reasonable excuse to party is good enough for us - having lived in Holland, where we celebrated Halloween with the Brits and Americans, November 5th with the Brits, December 5th as Sinterklaas Day with the Dutch, December 24th with our then French neighbours, December 25th for Christmas and as my parents lived in Spain at the time (60s-70s), we also included Three Kings Day on January 6th. Of course then there were the pre-lent celebrations when Holland goes a little crackers for a week and includes a pancake race vs the UK in February, St David's Day as we are Welsh, Easter (variations dependent upon country), July 4th in the US and for Americans in Europe, Various local parades in all these countries, adding in UK's Harvest festival and the US Thanksgiving as well - its all FUN! Now we are thoroughly enjoying adding all the French Fete Days and community meals as well.

Almost all of the celebrations as Brian points out have their origins far beyond Christianity, so if people have been enjoying those days for over 2,000 years I can see no reason to stop now. However, I would point out that Halloween in the UK is now strictly supervised after several poison sweets were given out and the usual "Stranger Danger" scenarios. In Wales, visits were pre-planned by schools and parents along an agreed route. Teens in the UK have used this as an excuse for vandalism with eggs thrown and general mayhem. Such a shame this has been so spolit for the children there.

Yes its Celtic and it is great!

All Hallows is the eve of the three days of All Hallows Tide. Hallows is the Scots for souls, e'en is the contraction of even or evening in modern English. It falls on the days that were originally the Celtic harvest festival Samhain. Ornate lamps were carved in turnips and other large beets as candle holders (against autumn winds), guising is dressing up or disguising and the trick or treat bit comes from the mumming plays where the actors would dress up to hide who they were and do tricks on people (make them the butt of a joke for example) or treat them with blessings. The treats could be easily obtained by giving the mummers money or food, hence the sweets offered today. Pumpkins made better lanterns once they were found in the north Americas, faces were carved in them to represent a death's head, witches and all the rest of it are a reflection on the pre-Christian tradition of burning corn dollies and asking the many gods for a good harvest next year. Being 'pagan', Christianity turned it into some kind of devil worship rather than prayers to the living earth. It has been commercialised into nonsense and all but a very few people celebrate the whole of All Hallows Tide any longer, not even the churches really.

Non-event in Paris, too, save for some bars in the Marais.

Where are you finding it shoved up your nose?

Not sure how you manage to feel that Halloween is being pushed up your nose here in France - it's pretty much a non-event here in Montpellier... No activities for kids (outside English language schools, I mean), little merchandise in shops, not much of anything anywhere in fact... As for McDonald's, yes, they're present, but perfectly easy to avoid (as I do, in fact)...

I think Halloween is a great way of livening up the start of the cold season... I loved it as a child in the UK. No, we didn't do trick-or-treating (that's the American part for me), but we dressed up, had witches' hat competitions, bobbed for apples and told ghost stories. It was fun! Immediately after, we moved on to Bonfire Night (another thing to look forward to once the clocks had gone back)... It all made the darkening evenings more fun. I actually wish the French would embrace Halloween MORE - it IS a Celtic thing, they should celebrate it as such...

I have never known what it is about and have no wish to know. I have a severe reaction to any sort of mumbo-jumbo in which I include all the main religions. When they come round I simply don't answer the door.

Well, Bruce, this American can understand the reluctance of Europeans to accept over-the-top American-influenced things appearing more frequently on this side of the pond. I despair of it sometimes, too. But as a stand alone festival, Halloween (Samhain) has a lot going for it, in my opinion. Having lived in Ireland for 11 years before coming to France I found the history fascinating. When I was a little girl in the States, Halloween was an innocent night of bobbing for apples, carving jack-o-lanterns, and dressing in homemade ghost and witch costumes. It, much to my disappointment and like so many other formerly simple ‘holidays’,has grown into a huge business and yes, I suppose we Americans are largely responsible for that. But, I don’t believe we’re shoving it down anyone’s throat and from what I’ve seen here some French are buying into it willingly, just as they have with McDo.

Just ignore it it will go away! I put a notice on our gate saying we don’t agree with trick and treat, and we are never bothered.

Halloween has been in France for a long time now. I can clearly remember things going on when my children were small.