Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Alone, again (sigh) on Shalloween Night

Well, my mother and my aunt came and left France in what seemed like a whirlwind. It was very nice to have them here and I was really not happy to see them go. We ate well, we traveled a bit, we shopped, and we made stuff. Or we tried to make stuff...I wasn't always successful. My parents helped buy me a wonderful sewing machine so I am ready to start making stuff for the baby. I've tried not to hyperventilate over the cost of decent fabric and am planning to get most of the stuff I want at my local fabric store over Christmas break. My aunt also helped me start knitting my very first sweater, although it's a Phildar pattern and I don't quite understand the (French) instructions. I'm going to need a lot of help with it...luckily I have a Phildar in my town and the staff are quite nice, so I can pop in there every now and again.

Halloween came and went relatively unnoticed in our town. Last year we were on vacation in the Loire Valley and we saw a few trick or treaters out and about. They seemed to be teenagers in masks knocking on random doors and asking for candy. We sat and observed a couple of attempts, and most of the people who answered the doors seemed not to be prepared. I couldn't hear what the kids actually said, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't "Trick or Treat." One sweet old lady had them wait at the door while she went to dig up some kind of food to give them; it didn't look like candy but more like a slice of pie or something. It reminded me of the time we caught a neighbor by surprise, so he ended up finding old gumdrops in his kitchen and dropping them into my bag. I guess we all have stories like that, though.

I am somewhat bothered by the increasing popularity of Halloween in France because it doesn't have any of the other fun traditions behind it aside from candy grubbing. It seems more like "Shalloween," although I can't pretend it was especially deep and meaningful back home...I know that a lot of candy grubbing goes on there, too. I think I'm just being hit with another wave of nostalgia for my childhood, back when I had a homemade costume and was still allowed to bob for apples. Plus, there were the completely predictable but still thrilling haunted houses with the older kids jumping out from behind fake coffins and "Touch the Random Part of the Corpse" with grapes and spaghetti standing in for eyeballs and intenstines. Halloween isn't Halloween without a trip to the pumpkin patch, hay ride, and visit in the corn maze. Of course, there were also the scary rumors of razor blades, poisoned candy, and serious health risks to black cats, not to mention the trick part of this holiday, so maybe things weren't so great after all. I don't know. I'm just hoping that France will somehow put its own magical touch on the fun of dressing up in scary costumes and save itself from the rest.

I am learning to appreciate fall in France, though. While I am longing for a biscuit with homemade apple butter, I am noticing more and more cute, small-scale touches around the area. We've just spent a week enjoying all the mums that have mysteriously popped up around town -- all of a sudden, there they were, and my mother and aunt really got a kick out of figuring out how they got them shaped into those strange configurations. My town offered a couple of mushroom-picking classes, plus there have been a couple of cute-sounding, food-based festivals around. The chestnut festival sounded especially appealing. And what's this red stuff growing on all the houses -- is that Virginia Creeper? And next year, when I hope to God I'm off this weird low-sugar diet, I can promise you that I will walk into at least one chocolate shop or patisserie and buy some of the fall-themed good stuff.

That's what drives me crazy about going into Carrefour and seeing all that crappy prepackaged Halloween candy -- the really good sweets are in the local small shops. That's the part of France I want to celebrate, not the nasty-ass marshmallow goop being pushed on children along with cheap masks and fake blood. I fail to understand this trend. My vote goes for dressing kids up, taking them to family or friends so everyone can ooh and ahh over how cute/grisly they are (because let's face it -- the photo op has to be the real appeal for parents), and then going straight to the chocolaterie to let them pick out their own dessert. And then everyone can sit around, eat high-quality sugar, and bitch about the strike of the day. Look at how crotchety I am...I'm the Halloween Grinch, aren't I. I'm not against Halloween back home -- it's great fun -- but they've already got the institution thing going and there's the possibility of more than just trick-or-treating. I just don't see the point of importing it except to make kids fat and waste money on crap.

Anyway, I was all set to have a Halloween movie night with my husband...I'd been looking forward to it for ages. I went ahead and spared him the agony of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown but saved The Blob and The Night of the Living Dead for when I got off work at 8:15. However, I failed to convince him of the merits of my plan and he got caught up in some movie on French TV, so I went to bed only to wake up at 2:00 a.m. with the pregnant woman night bladder syndrome and a desire to blog. So, here I am. At least I'm ready for next year! I searched high and low for a copy of The Blob before I left the U.S., only to find it here for a pretty decent price. Gotta love that.

9 comments:

Angela in Europe said...

OH yeah, Halloween does suck her. I am always amazed at how they take a decent American idea and completely ruin it. I give you McDonald's and rap music. McDonald's is a kids' joint because of the playground...are there any playgrounds in the McDonald's here? No! And rap music, it has its place in the U.S. but every kid here dresses like a rap star...Yikes, I think France should stick to its own traditions and stop trying to import other traditions!

Angela in Europe said...

here. I meant to say here, no her.

blueVicar said...

Halloween is a different experience in France, no doubt about it.

I'm out reading Halloween related posts by expatriate bloggers...and putting the links to them on my blog.

Meilleurs vœux!

Astrid said...

I would have loved to have seen the real halloween tradition. Now in Europe it's just become a commercial thing and we lose completely the real meaning about it.
Normally I've been unprepared but this year I thought that maybe the neighbour's kids would do some trick and treat'ing so I bought some nice sweets. However we ended up eating most of them ourself =) But oh, they were good.

PutYourFlareOn said...

Yay for picking up knitting! It's great and you'll get the hang of the Phildar patterns. They aren't the easiest out there but once you understand their way or writing patterns, you'll be fine. You should also check out online paterns on Knitty.com, there are a lot of great patterns to choose from.

Not a peep here for Halloween. And we did have candy just in case! :)

Anonymous said...

Well, I see you still have that sleep problem. I slept like a log the first night back and then went to bed at 8:30pm the next night and got up at 7:00am. I think I have adjusted very well. Thanks for an absolutely wonderful time and I love France too for all the wonderful places you can visit. I love it all and look forward to your visit. Take care and enjoy the sewing and knitting.

Deb said...

They don't really celebrate Halloween here in France. Even with all the candy, costumes, and decorations I saw in the stores....there were virtually no trick-or-treaters in our town.

Bee Ean Tee said...

So what is the real meaning of Halloween actually? I lived in US for 5 years, and every Halloween I experienced were an excuse for some people to get drunk. People spent a lot of money buying a costume. I can't imagine if you need to buy costumes for kids every year? Won't that cost a lot?

Tlt and Mko said...

just perused through your blog and had a good chuckle. My husband and I just moved to the South of France from Canada and I am still trying to get used to all the "differences" customer service (which i feel does not exist) and other suff. Reading your blog makes me sigh in relief that I am not the only one trying to get used to this crazy country...absolutely stunning but crazy sometimes country...