I can remember being in Troyes one year at Halloween and was surprised to find a restaurant decked out in black and orange because although Leonardo was born on 31st October, I had never seen any sign of Halloween in France. Then I heard the explanation on France Info. I love that radio because it keeps repeating the same news all day. If you get distracted by something else (and I always do), you know you’ll hear it again a little while later. It has lots of lifestyle and other interesting tidbits as well. I get a lot of my scattered knowledge from there. Far better than watching the 8 o’clock news with one of those annoying news readers who wear tons of make-up and carry on like film stars. Also, you don’t get the horrific pictures that you do on TV. I have still not seen any videos of 7/11. I’d be having nightmares if I did.
So, back to Halloween. In 1992, a costume company called Cézar bought out an American firm and found itself with a huge number of Halloween costumes. It opened a mask museum in Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent near Saumur in the Loire and did an amazing publicity campaign and that was the beginning of Halloween in France. It boomed in the late nineties before gradually fizzing out, probably because it lacks tradition here.
On Sunday, I heard an English woman at the market asking if there were any appropriately sized pumpkins but no one seemed to know what she was talking about. Speaking of pumpkins, they are excessively disappointing in this country. Usually big and tasteless. I bought a butternut in Romorantin last week – didn’t think you could go wrong with a butternut – but it was just like a bland squash. They only make soup with pumpkins here, but I’m not into soup. Some places have started selling what they call “potimarron”. I looked it up in the dictionary and it says « red hubbard squash, red kuri squash », not that I’ve ever heard of it. It’s not bad, but nothing like the Queensland blue. I still have a scar on one of my fingers from cutting up a pumpkin.
They do sell these neat little inedible squashes though. I found some in the Loire at 0.30 euros a piece. A real bargain. They’ll probably last a couple of months and are great decoration next to my forest floor with its autumn leaves, holly, pine cones and acorns. I even brought some moss home.
One of the first things I’m going to do in my new vegetable garden is plant some Australian pumpkins. That and raspberries.
8 thoughts on “Halloween and Pumpkins in France”
Halloween was almost unknown to me when I was growing up. My children (now in their 20s) grew up without any real celebration of it either. However nowadays it seems to be a very popular celebration or feast. I notice that (large supermarket chain) Woolworths sell those huge and probably tasteless orange pumpkins – presumably so people can carve them in jack o’lanterns or something. I now usually get small children door-knocking for lollies – I’m one of those terrible neighbours that never have any to give them (I must remember next year: I don’t really want to appear an old grump!) Around Magnetic Island I notice there are still lots of large scarecrow-like figures left sitting on park benches and waiting at bus shelters (?)
Each time I go back to Australia these days, it seems to be getting more American!
I would be all for supporting this imported and totally commercialized American celebration if it was accompanied by a day off work. Until then, it’s bah humbug in my household, with the blinds pulled and the doorbell ignored! Can you tell I don’t have kids?
Well, we do actually have a holiday on 1st November for All Saints Day. Very Catholic country, this is.
I love Halloween but I guess that’s because I grew up with a real tradition of it. It wasn’t quite so commercial when I was little. A lot of people used to make their own costumes. You would start thinking about what you were going to dress up as months before! The anticipation and parties at school were a lot of fun. Also, as a young child it was very exciting to go walking around the neighbourhood in the dark. I loved all the decorated houses and lights and seeing my friends’ parents dressed up as witches or other strange things.
I also LOVED the candy. I wasn’t allowed candy as a kid, except at Halloween so it was really a huge treat for me. Sadly, I was allergic to peanuts and chocolate (thank goodness you can become “unallergic” as you grow up!!!) so my sister ended up with most of the really good stuff but I loved licorice which she hated so we did some good swaps.
This year we had quite a few kids come trick-or-treating at our place. We were completely unprepared for it. We emptied our cupboards of all the chocolate and goodies we could find. The kids found it very entertaining.
Ah, that’s a real Halloween experience! And your enthusiasm makes it great for your kids.