November 1st – Festival of the dead

La Toussaint in France (All Saint’s Day) was originally created by the Catholic Church to honour the poor old saints and martyrs who didn’t have their own holy day.


It was also believed to be an attempt by the church to detract attention from the Celtic, Pagan celebration of Samhain, (pronounced sow-in), born in the British Isles, later to become Halloween.

The festival  celebrated the end of the bright, warm days of summer and the beginning of the cold dark nights of winter, when spirits were supposed to rise from the dead – none too Catholic for the conrolling church..

But it was too late! To the dismay of the Church, ghost, ghoulie and evil beastie celebrations had already caught on and Halloween soon became a yearly festival of masks and disguises to scare away the spooks and evil spirits.

Halloween in France however, has only recently become fashionable thanks (?) to films and American sit coms, McDo etc, all of which have given French children a taste for dressing up and ‘trick and treating’ (originally the poor used to go door to door receiving food in return for prayers for the dead.)


Cemeteries are busy on this day  of remembrance and chrysanthemums are on sale on every street. Don’t offer them to your hostess when invited out for dinner! They are for the dead


Des bonbons ou une farce’ is one way to beg for sweeties on Hallo’eve,  ‘friandises ou bêtises’ is another,  but as there is no literal translation, just about anything goes!

 Other Halloween vocab

​Se déguiser (en) – to dress-up (as)
Sculpter une citrouille – to carve a pumpkin
Un fantôme – a ghost
Un vampire – a vampire
Une sorcière – a witch
Un squelette – a skeleton
Un épouvantail – a scarecrow
Un diable – a devil
Un monstre – a monster
Une chauve-souris – a bat
Une araignée – a spider
Une toile d’araignée – a spider web
Un potiron, une citrouille – a pumpkin
Une bougie – a candle


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