I’ve been hanging around the south of France for about 10 years or so now, and one of the things I do lament, every year, is the lack of Halloween (and fall foliage, *sigh*).

Now that Buddy is nearing three, I thought it would be a great time to teach him a little Canadian Halloween heritage. And bring a bit of my favourite holiday to France, much to my Kiwi hubby’s chagrin. There was a lot of eye-rolling going on in our house this past week!

Now Halloween in France is a pretty dismal thing. There is no trick or treating. There are very few parties or events unless you live in an expat-heavy community (i.e. Monaco, Sophia-Antipolis, Nice) and there is a decided lack of candy in the supermarket aisles!

Don’t get me wrong… the French have been celebrating the ‘dead’ for centuries themselves around this time, just in vastly different ways. We North Americans celebrate it with costume parties, jack o lanterns and candy filled trick-or-treat outings. The French celebrate ‘Toussaints’ (All Saints), by visiting cemeteries and remembering the dead. And attending church.

But I think the North American tradition is starting to take hold a bit more every year. Communities seem to be holding little Halloween parties for kids… and what I’ve noticed (and love) is that the costumes are mostly in the ghoulish realm:  ghosts, skeletons, witches, wizards… I didn’t see a ‘sexy whatever-it-is’ anywhere, or any cartoon cute characters on the kids. The French seem to have embraced the ‘dead’ in Halloween better than the North Americans… although we do have Carnival to look forward to in February where we can all get kitted out in our cartoonish finest and whoop it up for 2 weeks of parades and fancy dress parties.

So our first task was to find a pumpkin to make dude’s first Jack ‘o Lantern. Not as easy as you would think!!!  I did manage to find some okay (smallish) pumpkins in the Carrefour supermarket in Monaco. None were found in any of the local markets.  Pumpkin, in French, is ‘Citrouille’… but not these ones. I kid you not, they were labelled as ‘Gourdes de Halloween’ in the supermarket. A nod to the Americanism of Halloween. AND they were 6 Euros apiece, which is probably close to 10 bucks. For a tiny little pumpkin. Don’t even get me started on how much it costs to buy a cob of corn (if one can be found).

So Buddy and I rolled up our sleeves for the fun and messy task of carving his very first pumpkin. Let me clarify. Buddy scooped what he could with a spoon so he didn’t have to get his hands dirty. I thought boys LOVED to get dirty???  He had carte blanche to get mucked up, and said no. Mon Dieu.

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All the same, less than an hour later we had our first Jack ‘o Lantern, art directed by a toddler. And a container of seeds to be roasted in butter and salt. Truly Canadian!  Jackie O was lit, every night, for the dinner hour. I suppose if I carried tradition over then I could teach him to smash the pumpkin on the road now that Halloween is over and done… but I’m pretty sure our neighbours would all know it was us!  Expats to tend to stick out like a sore thumb sometimes! No anonymity in our hood!

Expat friends invited us out to their house for a Halloween Party, and we braved the horrid weather so Buddy could enjoy his first real Halloween. He wore his cape for all of two minutes before discarding it for the rest of the evening. But the company was great, the kids had a blast, and our roasted pumpkin seeds were a surprise hit (how many times did I have to assure a Brit that YES, you really do eat them!).

I’ve heard tell that the charming town of Valbonne, which has a big expat community, has it’s own special french tradition nowadays…. the kids go through the narrow old town streets calling out whatever the french equivalent is for ‘Trick or Treat’ (we’ve got a year to find out what that is!), and then the residents just toss it out of the windows for the kids to scramble and catch. That’s how door-to-door works in the narrow cobblestone streets of an old village I guess, where most residents are in upper floors!   We’ll have to wait and find out next year, as it was bucketing down rain this year.

Happy Halloween folks.

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