When in the 1930s in the US people began mass-producing Halloween costumes, celebrations of the festival were nearly unknown to the inhabitants of France. At the same time festival is paradoxically indigenous to the area where the modern-day French people live.
Celtic origins of Halloween
Celts were the Indo-European tribes, examples of which are Gauls (modern-day Frenchmen) and Britons. They had their own culture, way of life and course celebrations. Before the aforementioned celtic tribes became today's Frenchmen and Brits, they had their version of Halloween. The festival itself was called Hallow E'en or Samhain. It was connected with the worship of the god of darkness, Samhain. The name means "the end of summer". But how come summer ends in November, one may ask?... It may surprise us, but druids have recognized only the summer and winter seasons. For the summer part of the year, another god reigned over nature. The celebrants of the Samhain believed, that during the Celtic New Year ghosts can communicate with the people. The festival lasted for seven days and has been celebrated in France, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.
Rommelbootzen: a Halloween of Lorraine
The people of Lorraine, a historic region in northeast France, have their original Halloween version. It is called Rommelbootzen or Nuit des betteraves grimaçantes (the night of the grimacing beets). It is connected with the custom of carving faces out of sugar beets. The carved vegetables have to be scary because they are meant to spook the people who see them. After the ephemeric artwork is done, the beets are placed on windowsills, crossroads, cemeteries or generally in places in which it could be noticed and make the desired effect, according to the malicious intents of the people who are behind the trick.
Fete de Sorciers
In November in France, several cities in France celebrate Fete de Sorciers, festival of witches and warlocks. The biggest celebrations are held in Lille and Morbecque (Haut de France), Chalindrey (Grand Est), Pennes Mirabeau (Provence). The origins of the festival stem from stories about the devil and witches, who were reported to be appearing in the vicinity of the places of the today's celebrations. Its participants dress up in costumes similar to those accompanying the celebration of Halloween. Celebrations include an exhibition of works of craftsmen and local products.
The begging of the organized celebrations in France
Halloween in France is pretty unpopular. The French are protective of their culture, proud of it and don't like events that are too commercialized. Most of them think that Halloween is too American. Despite its unpopularity culture centres promote it. Due to it's commercial potential, some owners of shops try to merchandize it. The celebrations of the festival have no roots in the French culture. It is no coincidence that the first Halloween party, celebrated in France, was organized by owners of the bar named "American Dream". It happened in 1982 in Paris. From then on, celebrations began to appear gradually.
Halloween in Disneyland and other organized parties
Halloween is celebrated in Disneyland in Paris. One can meet here people disguised as the evilest and most malicious characters from cartoons, one examle for it is Cruella de Mon. How scarry!... North of Paris has Halloween attractions in the famous theme park, the so-called Parc Asterix. On that very day, the park offers a visit to the haunted village. There are various events held in the interiors of various French castles. Examples are Château de Thoiry near Paris and Château de la Barben in Provence. During those types of events, people are entertained by various types of Halloween-themed RPG games and workshops.
Questions asked by the Franch celebrants of Halloween
Although those questions are being asked rarely, because not so many children cultivate the custom of going door to door and demanding sweets, there are French substitutes for the famous British question: trick or treat?... Children ask either: "des bonbons ou un sort", meaning candies or a spell, or "betises ou friandises"- mischief or sweets? This tradition is not deeply rooted in France.
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