Does France celebrate Halloween?

Does France celebrate Halloween?

by Clara Avrillier

Updated June 10, 2022

Ghost and ghouls, witches and werewolves and lots of candy: Halloween is a fun and exciting holiday that gives people of all ages the opportunity to bring out their inner child. It’s generally associated with the US, as it is widely celebrated there, but many other countries follow the traditions of this freaky holiday too. Although it’s not as much of a holiday staple compared to more traditional holidays like Christmas and Easter

In this article, you’ll learn about the origins of Halloween, some facts about this holiday in France and some useful French Halloween vocabulary. Now let’s dive straight into the details of this blood-curdling festival. 

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Some facts about Halloween in France

First, we’ll start off with some facts about the origins of Halloween, which actually began in parts of France! The roots of Halloween lie with the Celts over 2000 years ago, in an event they called Samhain. This pagan religious festival marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. At the time, the Celts were living over a large area that today is now northern France, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Activities during Samhain included dressing up in costumes and bonfires. Many historians consider this event to have greatly influenced the modern day Halloween.

Does France celebrate Halloween?

Simply put, no, not really (at least not on the same level as other countries like the US). Many people in France see Halloween as an American holiday and some may say it is a commercialized holiday, like Valentine’s Day, so it has not been celebrated much in France. La Toussaint (All Saints’ Day) on November 1 is a much more important national holiday in France: It’s a day to honor the dead and many French people spend time with their family and visit cemeteries to place flowers in honor of lost loved ones. 

How does France celebrate Halloween?

Even though many French people don’t celebrate Halloween, it doesn’t mean Halloween is completely ignored in France. Some places even celebrate it in the traditional way, by carving pumpkins, getting dressed up and going trick or treating. In more recent years, some of the bigger cities like Paris have incorporated Halloween events or festivals, and many restaurants and bars use it as an opportunity to hold fun events. 

Likewise, some supermarkets might sell pumpkins, while boulangeries (bakers) may display Halloween-themed cakes and desserts. Many international schools in France celebrate the ghoulish holiday as a way of teaching children about different cultures around the world, plus it’s a great and motivating way to encourage children to practice English.

Other ways Halloween day is celebrated in France

Costumes are part and parcel of any events that are held for Halloween day in France, like in schools or festivals. However, you might be surprised to learn that it’s more common to wear scary costumes in this country rather than the various options you’ll find elsewhere. Watching scary movies is also a choice activity on Halloween day in France. 

In the capital city of Paris, there are a myriad of events which are held for Halloween, including the annual Halloween festival at Disneyland Paris.

Bonus: Learn some Halloween vocabulary in French

Halloween is an excellent opportunity for students to learn a whole new set of French vocabulary. We’ve put together a list of terms to help you:

  • Le 31 octobre – October 31
  • Des bonbons ou un sort – trick or treat
  • Un costume, un déguisement – a costume
  • Un fantôme – a ghost
  • Citrouille d’Halloween – Jack-o’-lantern
  • Un squelette – a skeleton
  • Se déguiser en – to dress up as
  • Faire peur à quelqu’un – to scare, frighten somebody

A wicked holiday

This wicked holiday may not be celebrated in France on quite as large a scale as in other countries, but if you’re in the country on October 31 you may well come across some freaky festivities. Just don’t be surprised if you go out trick or treating and you give people a fright for the wrong reason!

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Clara Avrillier is a writer, linguist and content manager living in the South of France. She loves getting out in nature, doing sport, reading and playing music. She also works with many expats looking to move to France. Find out more on her website, ON IT Translations, or connect with her on LinkedIn

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