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Halloween in France

Posted on October 30, 2009

Hi, Ghouls and Demons, I thought it would be fun to share some facts about Halloween in France. On this day it was believed that the spirits rose from the dead to mingle with the living. The Celts left food at their doors to lure good spirits and wore masks to scare off evil spirits. The celebration of Samhain celebrated at the end of the harvest and honoring the dead. Centuries later the Roman Catholic church established November 1st as All Saints Day ( La Toussaint ) to honor Saints who don’t have their own Holy day. They wanted to detract attention away from celebrating Samhain considered a Pagan celebration.

Some say the Celts in northern France celebrated Halloween, but this can’t be confirmed. Halloween is not a traditional French holiday, yet  becomes more and more popular every year due to cultural influence and corporate marketing. The French have been hearing about Halloween from foreigners, tourists and in their English classes for years before Halloween got here. In 1982 the bar/restaurant American Dream in Paris started celebrating Halloween. At first they had to explain to all the customers what it was, but since 1995, the French are more familiar with the celebration. Phillipe Cahen of Optos Opus corporation claimed that he alone brought Halloween to France despite that it already existed here. He created ” Le Samain ” cake in 1997 and registered the word Halloween as a world wide trademark, this increase knowledge of Halloween in France. Companies such as France télécom, McDonalds , Disney and Coca Cola also started using pumpkins and other Halloween images in publicity, making it seem like another imposition of American culture.

Here it is usually celebrated by costumed people in restaurants, bars and clubs, the costumes tend to be traditionally scary, rather than cute costumes like princesses or superheroes seen in the U.S. Trick or treating is becoming more popular, it started out store to store rather than house to house. Halloween is during the mid-school break of All Saint’s Day which slows it down a bit. Stores, restaurants , offices and home decorate windows and pastry and candy shops make up special desserts. The candy companies are starting to market candy in the traditional Halloween format, a big bag of little packages to encourage trick or treating.

Halloween in France is controversial due to the perception of corporate and cultural influences as much as it is not a traditional French holiday, because it is seen as an American celebration. It is too early to tell if Halloween will stay around to be a long-term  tradition, maybe the novelty will wear off and it will turn out just to be a fad, and yet the French have been celebrating the ideas at the very heart of Halloween ( respect for the dead ) for centuries 31 October to 2 November have been traditionally been spent visiting cemeteries and honoring saints and attending religious services. happy Halloween from France

Written by Karen Morfu, Copyright 2009

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36 Responses to “Halloween in France”
  1. DarStarr says:

    Karen M.,
    Awesome!!! Thank you so much! That was REALLY interesting!!! I sure hope it sticks around there!

  2. Caretaker says:

    Halloween is definitely my favorite time of the year, I just wish it had been in the summer some time! :)

  3. Verna says:

    Wow, Karen Morfu what a well written article about Halloween In France. Most of this was NEW knowledge to Me. I am very impressed with your research ability. If it means a big boom in revenue for business’s big or small, I’m sure the observance of Halloween in France is there to stay & to grow. You just have to be watchful of the Evil Doers. I wish everyone a FUN HAPPY HALLOWEEN. and let them eat CAKE “Le Samain” cake that is. Giggle, Giggle I know a bit about French History myself.

  4. Karen M. says:

    Thank you DarStarr, me too I hope so but this year I haven’t seen any decorations at all!!

  5. Karen M. says:

    CT, LOL I think the dead leaves this time of year are spooky!

  6. DarStarr says:

    Karen M.,
    Oh, that sucks! Did you put up decorations?
    I agree with Karen, there is nothing better for Halloween than that good ole fall weather!!! Dead leaves blowing all around and you run from house to house!!

  7. DarStarr says:

    Hey guys! I’ve got to run, I hope everyone has a safe and Happy Halloween!!!!

  8. Karen M. says:


    Thank you and you are right everyone says it is just here to make money for buisnesses!

  9. Bonnie says:

    Hi Karen,

    Hey, very nice and well writtened story. Very informative and interesting. Thank you so much for sharing! Gosh, I can still remember our time while stationed in Japan. I had the wonderful opportunity to work as an English teacher with the Japanese children. It was five of the most happy and rewarding years of my life. I’ll always remember all my little ones (mainly 2 and 3 year olds). I taught at a Kindergarten that specialized in teaching children how to read, write, and speak english, starting at the age of one!! It was so much fun and the kids just loved Halloween. What I was told by the lady who ran the Kindergarten, that Halloween is not celebrated in Japan, only in the English speaking schools. The Japanese children would come to the American military bases to go trick-or-treating. There would be Halloween parties in the parks, sponsored by the schools. In class, we would practice saying “trick or treat” and then I would put candy in their trick or treat bags. Some of the parents would go all out for their children’s costumes, mostly Disney styles. It was so much fun. Gosh, my little ones now are pre-teens. The lady who ran the school is a very good friend of mine. We email each other every so often and she keeps me informed of how the kids are doing. and their progress with their english. I’m sure proud of all of them! Reading your very nice story brought back great memories :)

    Karen, you and your family have a great weekend. And again, thank you for sharing such a nice story. Happy Halloween!

  10. trolldoll1681 says:

    i have a friend in kiev ukraine, i’ll have to ask him if they know about halloween too!! thanks for the info HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYBODY!!!

  11. Karen M. says:

    Hi Bonnie,

    Thank- you for your comment. That sounds like you had a great experience in Japan how interesting. My daughter is learning English in school and I noticed in her english book that they have 2 pages about Halloween. The older generation here do not understand Halloween so no trick or treating, although some stores do give out candy. Thank-you again and Happy Halloween to you and your family also!

  12. Karen M. says:

    Hi Trolldoll,

    Wow is it spooky outside today it’s really foggy and the leaves are all orange. I don’t know if they have Halloween there, but I know that the reason it is in the U.S. is because the Irish immigrants brought it over with them. Thanks for the comment and Happy Halloween.

    P.S. Here is a great superstition that fits right along with France and my sense of humor.

    SNAILS: Some believe if you catch a snail on Halloween night and lock in a flat dish, then in the morning you will see the first letter of your sweetheart written in the snail’s slime.

    This isn’t a French superstion, I’m not sure which country it comes from, but that it ’s funny!

  13. Bonnie says:

    You’re very welcome, Karen. Hey, this weekend is Fantasy Fest in Key West. I think I remember you commenting in one of my stories that you had visited Key West and had gone to Ernest Hemmingway’s house and other places. If you would like to see how things on going during Fantasy Fest on Duval Street, log on to fantasyfest.net and click on to the crowd cam. It’s so cool to see everyone dressed up in costumes and walking around. We were going to go this year, but, we’re still trying to get over the fun we had last weekend during the GoomBay Festival…hee!hee! That’s so neat that your daughter is learning english in school. Does she have a visiting teacher come to her school during her english class? Before I had worked at the kindergarten in Japan, I was a traveling foreign teacher for an english company. The program that I worked in was called “Home Pal.” It was so much fun. I can still remember the first time I had to use the rail system by myself. The lady who hired me told me that one of the most important things, besides enjoying working with children and having alot of patience as well, is to be able to use the train system and get to the classes on time. I know that on the day going to my first class to teach, my three sisters and my husband were just terrified that I would get lost. But, once everything was fine, the only worries that my hubby had was having a wife out and about in a foreign country with an unlimited credit card LOL! You take care Karen, and both you and your family have a great weekend as well.

  14. Karen M. says:

    Hi Bonnie,

    Now you just brought back memories I was near the bar called I think Papa Joe’s which they have look alike contest for Ernest Hemingway and there was a guy on the street with a parrot and he had a sign that said “it costs alot to feed me” and the parrot would go on you shoulder and the guy would take a picture with “your camera” and then you would have to pay I think it was 2$!!!

  15. Bonnie says:

    Hi Karen,

    Yes, I’ve heard of that guy and his parrot, and also, of the Hemingway look alike contests. I was told that Ernest Hemingway use to sit at the bar and write some of his best works, while being inspired by the people around him…a great man, he was. About that guy with the parrot, though…I don’t know, but, I think that guy was pulling a scam with charging people to have their picture taken with the parrot, and using their own camera. I’m sure that the Key West Police would put a stop to his little business, if they caught him…LOL! Some really interesting people, you find in the Keys, though. There was some guy who was walking around Duval Street, a couple of years ago, with a python snake around his neck…EEEEEEEEEEEEK!!!! I am terrified of snakes! We had the top down on the car that day, and he came up to our car on my side…I told my husband to FLOOR IT!! We got out of there fast…hee!hee! We live on a different Key, and we don’t always get out that way too often. But, it’s alot of fun, and interesting, when we do. I would love to go back to the Hemingway House and see all those cute kitties. I just love cats. My hubby loves cats too, but, he is highly allergic to them. I hope that you and your family will be able to come this way again some time. It’s always alot of fun here in the Keys. I bet that France is very beautiful and romantic. My husband visited there several times, while on a port call, when he was onboard the aircraft carrier, but, I never had the chance. I would love to visit France one day, though. My mom’s step mother was from France. Her name was Marie. One of my sisters is doing a family tree on both my mom’s family and my dad’s family. I was interested to find out that there was alot of French heritage on my mom’s side. She was born and raised in New Orleans. Her biological mother had passed away when my mom was very young, and my grandfather had met and remarried a very nice lady from France, about a year later. I saw pictures of my grandmother Marie. She was breathtakingly beautiful! Her father was a riverboat captain in France. It would be fun to go to France one day, and look up some of the family heritage. Also, I believe that you had mentioned once that your husband is from Italy. Now, I’ve been there. My husband and I were both stationed in Naples, Italy together, while serving in the Navy, for three years. Beautiful country!

    WelI, I best go now. Karen, it’s always a pleasure talking to you.

  16. KNOWTOMUCH says:

    what wonderful stories you all have!!! very interesting!!!! i was born in Wales, Great Britain, and lived in Canada as a child, also…. i really dont remember to much about halloween untill i came to the US when i was 8 years old…. I remember going house to house with my sis and her friends, they where 4 years older than me, and dragging my bag full of candy as it was getting heavy,,,, then my candy went all over the road,,lol.. one of the kids got me another bag from a neighbor……..

    We had many good years of dressing up and going house to house,, as we got older, we had Halloween parties…. even as adults, we have been to some awesome Halloween parties…. now,,,, lol,,, as we get older, we stay home and watch spooky movies….

    there are a lot of marathons on tonight,, lots of spooky stuff… all of the ghosthunt type shows are getting very popular …… so,, thats what me and hubby will do tonight…..

    HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE and hugs to you all,,,,, ktm

  17. Bonnie says:

    Hi KTM,

    It’s so interesting to hear about where people are from on this website. There are so many nice people from all over the world who comment on here. Gosh, Wales, Great Britian…I bet that’s a beautiful country. I’ve never been there, but, I sure would love to go visit one day. Have you gone back to visit your home country? Princess Diana, the Princess of Wales, was my favorite princess of all times.

    I just love scarey movies too. Today for Halloween, my husband and I went to our favorite Chinese Restuarant and had lunch. We haven’t watched any scarey movies yet, but the night is still young…hee! hee! I did watch the trailer from the new movie, Paranorma; that is out in the theaters…scared the daylights out of me!! Can’t wait to see the entire movie! I know that I won’t be able to sleep for a week LOL!

    KTM, both you and your hubby have a great evening.

  18. Karen M. says:

    Hi, KTM

    I didn’t know you where from Wales or Canada that’s interesting too. We don’t have any scary show , but I have the Exorcist telecharged on my computer part 1, 3 and the begining.I used to be scared of that movie, but you know now that I’m older it doesn’t bother me anymore, bet if they did a remake today it would though! I bought the kids alot of candy and watch the cartoon network…………………THEN BRUSH THEIR TEETH LOL! Hope you and your husband have a great Halloween!

    Hi Bonnie,

    Yes my husband is from Longobucco eeeeeeeeeekkkkkkkkk 100% calabrese. Naples IS beautiful, I agree!

  19. KNOWTOMUCH says:

    Hi ladies,,,,, i havent been back to Great Britain since i was 13,, a looooog time ago.. but we are in touch with our families there ,very often…..in fact, i just talked to my Aunt Betty last week,, my favorite Aunt, she is now 86, and i havent seen here since she visited about 10 years ago…….but,, we where raised here in the USA , from childhood, so we where used to our family being over seas…. although,,,, now its kinda sad,,, its just me, mom and my sis…… we have family in NC, but dont really stay in contact…..

    Anyway,, on a good note,,, Halloween was fun,,,,,it seemed like almost all of the channels had scary movies on, so we watched all sorts of things!!! we dimmed the lights, and lit candles,,lol…. it was a nice evening….

    Before we know it, it will be Thanksgiving and Christmas….. wow,, has this year flown by…

    take care all,,, ktm

  20. Manik says:

    Karen Nice one cutie though Halloween is not celebrated here i like pumpkins with scary faces and candles inside it. I like candies too! ! ! ITs cold here in south india coz its north eastern monsoon time so when i take a walk out side cold breeze tingles my spine like the leaves that u had said bye sweetie ( such nice friends to hang out with ! ! !) with love [email protected][email protected]!

  21. Karen M. says:

    Hi Manik,

    Thank-you for the comment, us too we don’t celebrate Halloween either but it just started here no too long ago! It is starting to get cold here too but the sad part is that it does not snow but maybe once in the whole winter it’s dark, gray and raining, you take care talk to you soon!

  22. jerryclft says:

    Ok, so Halloween is yet again an American thing, ya we planed to mess the Friench with yet another American plan , another imposition of American culture. hey yet again thanks -

  23. DarStarr says:

    Karen M,
    Darling, you can come and visit me anytime and get ALL the snow you could ever want!!!
    LOL! We should be having our first storm sometime soon!! YUCK!

  24. trolldoll1681 says:

    sorry you feel that way jerryclft! but i do agree with karen, halloween started with the irish and they brought it over to the us!! i have heard that the slaves in the south used to put pumpkins or gourds on a stick or outside, lighted to keep away evil spirits. does anyone else have any irish lore on halloween??

  25. Karen M. says:


    I’m sorry that you don’t like the facts!

    • Caretaker says:

      Hey Karen
      I may be wrong but I think jerry’s point was that Halloween did not originate in America. I could be wrong on that and hopefully he will elaborate himself on what he meant.

  26. Karen M. says:


    How to explain? France is a country 98% Catholic and every Holy day is observed , meaning the 15 august is the Asumption everything will be closed, the 4 january is the Epithany, the 25 of march is the annociation ect……………….I think you get the idea. Halloween has never been celebrated in France, if you scroll all the way to the top of the page you will see that the celts in northern France did, but this can not be proven. We all know that it originated in Ireland , the point of the article was to say that it is associated with americans because they have the biggest of celebrations for this holiday, it lost its real meaning somewhere and has been totally commercialezed and the old French do not understand this reason for celebration, although it has been embraced by the young generation, also if you go back and look 1 novemeber is All Saints Day which is taken quite seriously here by young and old. Take for example a waffle, I’m sure you’ve eaten one before with syrup, creme or fruit and it was hot. Well the waffle is actually from Belgium and they eat them cold as a snack with coffee………..none of the other stuff, Americans make everything into the Hollywood style. I hope that explained it to you!

  27. trolldoll1681 says:

    karen, i think you explained this very well!!!

  28. Karen M. says:

    Thank-you trolldoll, I appreciate your comment , this article was in no way against americans but just to explain halloween here!

  29. trolldoll1681 says:

    and if i’m not mistaken the druids in ireland probably started the whole thing!

  30. Karen M. says:


    I think you are right it was druids in Ireland. I don’t know what they believed but they were known as pagans, I think that is someone who is not in the church I could be wrong with the definition?? My children are in Catholic school and there are only 2 pages in the english book they are learning about halloween to teach them different cultures, but they don’t know what it is!!

  31. Bonnie says:

    Hi Karen,

    You always write such nice comments and stories. It was very interesting what you had said about Halloween in France. I never knew that the Irish had something to do with bringing Halloween over to America….very interesting.

    Hi Trolldoll!

  32. KNOWTOMUCH says:

    Karen, i do think that Jerry got a little offended,, not sure why????? maybe i just took his wording wrong!!!! maybe he can explain!!!! i thought all of you gave some very good info…… What they do in Wales,, i have no clue!!!!!! Well,, mom told me that they have guy forks night….. not sure how to spell it.. fireworks and such,, and she told me the date, but i dont remember,,i should keep up with my heritage better, considering, i was born there and my relatives are all there….shoot,, i have enough trouble trying to keep up with myself,,lol…. my hubby is scotch-irish…my dad said that my hubby was a black scot.. ( black curly hair i guess) dad was really up on history!!!!!

    take care all,, and Karen,, i just love to hear your stories about France……

    luv you all,,, ktm

  33. Karen M. says:

    Hi KTM,

    Is that the celebration where they make a stuffed figure of a man and burn it in the garden?? I think I ‘ve heard of that , but can’t remember what he did or why they celebrate it?? I also love to learn things about other countries! Thanks.

    P.S. I was in the West Indies once around Halloween and they don’t celebrate either!

  34. AnNa says:

    thanks for the story.its interesting.you learn something new everyday.not very many people do the halloween thing anymore.they turn off the lights and hopefully people dont come.since i’ve had my son i’ve notice more people not doing the halloween thing.i love halloween expecally watching the halloween movies(even though they dont scare me at all.)theres only two days out of the year i dont like.april 1st and november 1.even though you said people have that day for celibration.thanks for the story.

  35. AnNa says:

    did you know that in mexico were my parents were born that for christmas they have someone dress up like santa and go door to door and hand out some candy.and on christmas they dont wrap the present. its just in a large bowl.and some minnonites still do that.or even my cousin once did in a suitcase.weird i know.i know it has nothing to do with halloween but you learn something from that so maybe someone call learn about this.my mom didnt start wrapping christmas presents since maybe 10 years ago.ya i know.but now there wrapped.

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