Past Opinion Articles

Article for the week of 10/31/09

Halloween: How French it is.

Submitted by Foxbat of

It can be argued that France is at the origin of the Halloween tradition. Gallia (then) was indeed the land where the Celtic populations and traditions settled after eons of tribulations through the steppes of central Asia and the mountains of Eastern Europe. In their society, Samain was an important celebration, a time where the barrier between the netherworld and our world was getting porous and things could happen... this was 2 millennia ago. Since then, through the Roman Conquest, and the (ahem! again) Germanic conquest, Gallia evolved and became Francia, forgetting, for centuries, the very fact of its celtitude.
That is, until the beginning of the 21st century. At that time, after decades of dreading to see a nuclear sky drop down on their heads (BTW, a popular superstition in old Celtic Gallia), the French rejoiced in the western ecumenism that followed the fall of the Berlin Wall. All things western became fashionable, and in fact, the more western they were, the more fashionable they became (and you all know how important being fashionable is for the French). So, under the twin auspices of fashion and the rediscovery of their Celtic roots, the French gave Samain, I mean Halloween, a warm welcome. It was a day it was cool again to be a druid, and the French were treated to their fill with the ramblings of individual whom, in other times, they would have discarded as crackpot... But this was a short time, as other gods and traditions demanded way to be made for them : Hermes and mamon called, as, traditionally, October is such a time of poor sales in French malls and supermarkets (as there is no real reason to spend, if you except, of course, that taxes are due in October and November in these parts). Samesmen, maketicians and all sorts of shopkeepers found a way o make some profit with Halloween : that was a time streets were festooned in orange and black, kids were (for free!) skin-painted in the malls, the humblest pastry shop made itself a duty to bake and sell some Halloween specials, and I did not miss the chance to make myself a spiffingly gore avatar on

But these times have come, and gone. Alas, the French are fickle, and the very fashion that had brought back Halloween, has taken it away. Today, you have to look hard to be reminded what we are : a few rubber blades, vampire teeth, and witch sweeps are hidden behind rank upon rank of imported Chinese toys, ready for the Christmas sales (which conveniently come at a time Mr Taxman leaves us, for a short while, to our own devices). Does it mean all hope must be lost? No, by any means! I think of that brave couple proudly ambling through the parking lot on their vampire attire. But it will be some time before it's in full swing again.

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