There’s an interesting piece in the N Y Times today by Peter Mayle. You remember Peter Mayle – “A Year in Provence”?
He’s writing about the strange custom we have called “Halloween,” something that, up until a couple of decades ago, the French had never heard of. But they have it now; they call it “l’alowine.”
I remember that years ago we had French au pairs over to help take care of the children. Toward the end of October each au pair would be mystified by all that was going on at that time of year: folks with ghoulish costumes, wearing masks, a strange emphasis on pumpkins, etc.
I would try to explain. You have the same holiday we do, All-Saints Day, also known as All-Hallows Day. In France you call it Toussaint. Well, the evening before a big holy day it’s sort of normal to have some fun; you weren’t supposed to have fun on a big holy day. So we have this celebration that is known as All-Hallows Eve, now known as Halloween.
When I mentioned pumpkins, they would say: I see, soup. No, I explained, you cut up the pumpkin and place it in the window. That wasn’t much help for them to understand the holiday.
I didn’t tell them of my belief that three-quarters of the children over here taking part in these shenanigans have no idea why or what the holiday means.
But gradually this custom of ours has drifted across the Atlantic. Mayle mentions the first time, years ago, a French friend of his heard someone at the door toward the end of October and when he opened it he was astonished to see bloodstained ghouls and vampires, witches, a variety of evil spirits and even one tiny kid dressed as a pumpkin, all calling for bonbons.
Today, evidently, the celebration has firmly caught on in France. Mayle recently saw a sign in a store window: “N’oubliez pas l’alowine!” “Don’t forget Halloween!”
1 year ago