Halloween Is a Humbug

photo: cafe saint-severin

Rain and damp in the Quartier Latin.

According to Ed

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 25. October 1999:- I may be a 'humbug' about Christmas, but with Halloween I am a total dead-****. I wouldn't mind having a Columbus Day, but the French wouldn't like it. They have discovered a lot of things but a pair of continents isn't one of them. Thank you, Italy! Thank you, Spain!

But Halloween - ah - do we really need this in France? To me, this is not 'bon bouffe.' Yet it has arrived; it now even thrives. I suspect the reason is that all the Parisians want a reason to dress up - with masks - and try out their secret dreams.

There is Carnival in Boulogne-sur-Mer and in Nice, but none in Paris. Is a 'Techno-Parade' a substitute? Not nearly! So this completely harmless stuff for little kids under 10, this Halloween is invading the area.

Of course, I may be completely wrong; due to being on Paris streets all the time now. Maybe I didn't notice it before. Well, that's over. I notice it now.

I would have noticed even if a reader hadn't written last week. Ten minutes before her plane was to leave, she discoveredphoto: pumpkin, fruit veg shop the Passage Jouffrey and in it a shop with hand-made witches and goblins - but the shop was already closed.

Being in such a hurry, she didn't get the right address and asked me to help. With my visitor, Nigel from Oz, in tow - we went up to the Boulevard Montmartre and checked out the witches and goblins in the Passage Jouffrey.

There are several shops in this passage that have unusual items and one of them, 'Pain & Epices,' has everything you need if you are one of those people who like to make your own miniature dolls or figurines. They have everything from noses to split-level ranch houses for them.

However, it wasn't this particular shop that had the Halloween-figures on display in its window. But as this passage contains several shops with related items, it was close enough. And, it was quite busy - so I'm not spilling any secrets here.

The rest of the week while Nigel and I were walking around, sometimes lost, we saw dozens of shop windows with Halloween themes. Bakeries, hairdressers, eyeglass places; every kind of shop. Halloween stuff is all over Paris - not to mention all the real pumpkins for sale on the street markets.

Le Parisien also has had a few features entitled 'How to cook a pumpkin' - as if everybody doesn't already know.

There are also six or a dozen costume shops in Paris, scattered around here and there. Many of these also rent costumes and their usual window displays feature the kind of gear you might need for carnival in Venice.

Which reminds me, I forgot to mention this past weekend's sale of 10,000 costumes by the Paris Opéra. I heard about it on the radio, butphoto: halloween window display few details were given and then I forgot about it. Late in the week, TV-news had a preview - of some of the costumes about to be flogged at Bastille.

They were all hand-made for opera productions - and were pretty nifty; and dirt-cheap. Like 600 francs for a bejeweled item kept in storage since the '20's.

Halloween was impossible to miss in Paris this year. In the past, a lot of bars and cafés that cater to those hungry for 'home' and 'traditional' fêtes such as Halloween, hold special parties for this occasion.

Also now in the past, I used to see the publications for these 'home-sickies' and see the ads for Halloween galas. For some reason, I didn't come across any of these this year - possibly because I forgot to look for them. There was a lot of rain and looking for anything was a guaranteed drench.

The last time, last year, when I saw one of these magazines or papers, there were full-page accounts of the 'legend of Halloween.' I 'did' Halloween asphoto: costume rental 'au fou de rire' a kid and at the time there was no legend. It was 'trick or treat,' throw firecrackers around, eat the swag, dunk for apples, and get sick. Some legend!

In Paris I think the drive for Halloween comes more from Parisians feeling deprived of carnival, and very gradually over a good many years merchants have come to realize that there is a little money to be made here.

It doesn't explain opticians putting pumpkins in their display windows. To me this is a sign of approaching 'total Halloween.'

The 'legend' has only been invented as a vehicle for explaining something totally ridiculous. If a thing has a 'historical value,' the French are more likely to try it out - and maybe push it along until Halloween-chic is really 'in.' Bah. Humbug.

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