Halloween Lost in Translation

Every year, the same question pops up again in France: Should we celebrate Halloween?

It is still viewed as an American celebration that has been imported more for commercial reasons than anything else. It is often perceived through a negative prism because it depicts the concept of death in a fun way right on the eve of « La Toussaint », the day when the French honour their loved ones who passed away. Typically, they go to cemeteries to flower their relatives’ graves in a very solemn way. The idea of having fun and mocking death the night before doesn’t sit quite well in the culture. You’ll often hear parents who don’t want their children going door to door to ask for sweets. It is still seen as indecent. As for the Millennials, it is a great opportunity to host a « fête costumée » (a costume party).

But, if we have a closer look at France’s history, Halloween does find some roots in the French past, especially in the Celtic part of the country: Britanny. After all, Halloween derives from the Celtic celebration called Samhain. According to what I’ve read, this Celtic celebration supposedly disappeared from France during the Middle Ages.

Now that it is trying to come back, you need to consider the linguistic aspect. Is there an equivalent to the catchy phrase « Trick or Treat? ». What about the tradition of carving a Jack O’lantern? And the many Halloween-themed recipes online?

Halloween remains a marginal celebration, so the French vocabulary hasn’t developed much.

Want to learn a few Halloween-related expressions in French? Find below a quick glossary.

Trick or Treat!: Un bonbon ou un sort !

Jack O’lantern: Une citrouille d’Halloween (Halloween pumpkin, quite simple really!)

To dress up: se déguiser

A ghost: Un fantôme

A witch: Une sorcière

A wizard: Un sorcier

A costume: Un déguisement (« un costume » also works fine)

A curse: Une malédiction

Cook Up A Storm!

If you really want to impress your French friends and show them the real spirit of Halloween, the way Americans do it, then show them how to host a true Halloween party. Don’t forget to offer some of these great-looking pastries as those shown on this website: http://allrecipes.com/recipes/holidays-and-events/halloween/