Halloween in Paris

By Robert Korengold

Halloween, Disneyland Paris. Photo: coconutwireless/Flickr Creative Commons.What happens at Halloween in France? Several years ago, around the mid-1990s, it showed up big time.

As in America, grocery stores and super markets suddenly sprouted all sorts of pumpkins, orange and black candy and scary costumes for French kids to wear as they went out and tried out a new custom: trick or treating.

American enterprises like McDonald’s, and Paris Disneyland amusement park near Paris quickly joined the bandwagon by adding on timely Halloween themes to their programs. So did many night clubs and bars, that quickly worked up special Halloween night events.

Nevertheless, in France, where La Toussaint (All Saints Day) is a much honored national holiday, the whole Halloween ritual on the evening before never really caught on.

After its initial impetus it gradually lost much of its attraction with each succeeding year.

From the start, French newspaper commentators had denounced the Halloween phenomenon as a “marketing gimmick,” and, even worse, an American one. As one French journalist summed it up, “You can’t just import a holiday like you import a sandwich or a pair of shoes.”

As early as 2006, the newspaper Le Monde pronounced the Halloween phenomenon in France “more or less buried.” For the past few years, even worse and probably more effective, instead of criticizing the American Halloween invasion, the media and commercial sector more or less ignored it.

Of course, some bars and restaurants maintained their special Halloween nights. However, if you wanted a spooky costume, some Halloween-style candy to give to trick or treaters, or even a respectably impressive pumpkin for the occasion, you really had to scout around. It was equally difficult to find anyone in the media writing about Halloween.

Years later, it seems the media were wrong as Halloween is celebrated today with kids trick-or-treating, family visits to pumpkin patches, and costumed adults partying like kids at bars.

Halloween celebrations are scheduled at Paris bars—pick up a copy of Pariscope (weekly entertainment guide available at newstands every Wednesday for .40€) when in Paris to find the latest.

2011 Halloween activities:

Laser bowling at Le Bowling Mouffetard on Oct. 31

Visit the Catacombes or cemeteries like Pére-Lachaise. Bring a small potted mum plant to pay your respects.

Paris Disneyland celebrates Halloween the entire month of October.

Take a "Mysteries of Paris Ghost Tour," reviewed here.

Join a costumed Halloween Pub Crawl starting at 8pm at the Starbucks by the Moulin Rouge (show up, meet group, pay fee to event organizers).

Le Batofar is holding an Electro-Funky house party on Oct. 31

Les Fermes des Gally, has a self-serve "you pick" pumpkin patch and apple orchard in St-Cyr just 20 minutes outside of Paris with carving workshops for children open from October 24-31, 2011.

Photo credit:

coconut wireless/Flickr, Creative Commons license.

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