In France, the celebration of Halloween is still somewhat contentious. Many people here don’t understand why Halloween is celebrated and consider it another imposition of American culture on France. They are always resistant to being Americanized and frequently vehemently adhere to things typically French. Dressing up in a costume is different if you want to blend in on Halloween in France.

While the concept of an American-style Halloween is relatively new to France, if you are an American in France during Halloween, there are a few festivities to be discovered, particularly in larger cities like Paris and Nice, where you may dress up and enjoy with expats and French alike. On the weekend closest to Halloween, if not on the night itself, any expat or Erasmus student pub worth its drink will have its fair share of ghouls, goblins, and demons.

Furthermore, because November 1 is a national holiday in France (All Saints’ Day or La Toussaint), you will never be forced to work or attend school the day after Halloween. Growing up, I always wished the day after Halloween had been a holiday. It is in France.

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Famous Halloween Celebrations In France

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Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris, of course, celebrates Halloween by transforming “Main Street” into “Spook Street” and amusing guests with usual Halloween-themed events if you’re looking for an over-the-top, commercialized, and kid-friendly occasion. It’s corny, pricey, and very, very Disney. However, this is certainly a good pick if you’re looking for a kid-friendly Halloween event in France.

Paris

Since 1982, the American Dream Diner in Paris has been celebrating Halloween. I would generally advise avoiding any “American” style pub or restaurant while in France (they usually have awful American-style food and drinks); if you are searching for individuals who are as excited about the holiday as you are, this is a terrific place to go.

Limoges

Limoges is the French city that has most embraced Halloween, with a Halloween procession held every year on October 31 since 1996. A parade of ghosts, goblins, and ghouls bearing candlelit pumpkins attracts approximately 30,000 people. Many individuals dress up in costume and visit local pubs, cafes, and restaurants, many of which host special Halloween parties. If you’re looking for a genuine Halloween party in France, Limoges is the place to be.

Ten Things To Know About Halloween In France

Are your children excited about Halloween? Before bobbing for apples, consider these ten facts about Halloween in France.

If you are an expat who loves all things Halloween, you will know that the terrifying aspect of the holiday is discovering that your new home country does not celebrate it. But, before you hide beneath the sofa and wait for Noel, consider these ten facts about Halloween in France. You could find a few treats or tricks.

Keep Your Expectations From Getting Spooked

The first thing to remember about Halloween in France is that you’re celebrating it in France. This means it won’t be the same fun-filled festival of candy and costumes you’re used to. Indeed, if you arrive from the United States or Canada, you may find out that the holiday passes you by with little fanfare. However, if Halloween is your favorite holiday, don’t let that deter you. Adjust your expectations, and you’ll discover that Halloween in l’Hexagone is just as fun as your childhood memories.

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Halloween Is Not A French Tradition

Despite its Celtic roots in Europe, Halloween is not a traditional holiday in France, having arrived in the 1990s from North America. However, La Toussaint, also known as All Saints Day in English, is a widely observed national holiday in France.

This occurs the following day, November 1, and is traditionally marked by the French honoring the dead through flowers and special events. Because the French are fiercely proud of their traditions and heritage, Halloween is overshadowed by La Toussaint. La Toussaint also coincides with two weeks of school vacation across the country.

Many French People Believe That Halloween Is Overly Commercialized

The American-style Halloween celebration has yet to catch on in France because it’s too American. This alone has caused much of French society to reject the holiday. Locals consider the holiday overly commercialized, providing another reason for supermarkets and other retailers to stock up on candy, costumes, and alcohol. So, this is why you will see fewer storefront windows decorated for Halloween. However, this is gradually changing, particularly in major cities. Keep an eye out for flashes of orange and black the next time you’re out and about.

French Attitudes To Halloween Are Changing Slowly

Even though many locals completely disregard Halloween, some of the younger French generations are gradually coming around to it. However, this is a slow process, and you shouldn’t expect to see your local village square decked out in black and orange ribbons anytime soon. However, if you work or study in a large French city, you will almost certainly encounter hints of Halloween. Some bars host Halloween parties, often with costume contests, and you may even see a cinema showing horror films.

Don’t Say Trick-Or-Treat On Halloween In France

The French do not say “trick-or-treat” but rather “spells or candies” (des bonbons ou un sort). In France, however, don’t expect many costumed children to knock on your door because the trick-or-treat tradition could be stronger. Depending on where you live, a few kids may knock on your door on Halloween. However, this is the exception, not the rule.

Why not organize your own trick-or-treat exchange if your children attend an international school located in France or you socialize with other expat parents in your neighborhood? Speak with the other parents and plan a mini-version of the traditional trick-or-treat experience. The kids will be able to dress up and participate in the adventure, and you will save all of the candy! Just make sure they use French terminology.

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Halloween Costumes In France Are Usually Scary

Beware, partygoers: you are in for a scare! That is right; when the French dress up, they usually go for a scary look. While many North American costumes in this day and age are funny, cute, or satirical, expect to be scared if you are invited to a French Halloween party. Locals usually go all out for the fright, dressing up as vampires, ghosts, or the odd European fairy tale villain. Unfortunately, your children will have to wait until early spring for an excuse to dress up in their favorite funny or cute costumes.

There Are Numerous Frightening French Locations To Visit On Halloween

If you want to be terrified this Halloween, why not visit some of France’s most terrifying sites? With thousands of years of turbulent history, it is safe to say that the country has plenty of terrifying places to visit. If you live in Paris, you should first visit the infamous Paris Catacombs.

More than six million remains are housed in the underground cemetery’s tunnel network. Yes, truly. Meanwhile, the elegant Palace of Versailles is above ground but no less eerie. Guests are said to have seen ghosts roaming the palace and gardens of Marie Antoinette’s former home. You have been warned!

Disneyland Paris Hosts An Annual Halloween Festival

Do you want to avoid underground cemeteries? Then why not have a truly American Halloween by visiting one of Europe’s largest and best amusement parks, Disneyland Paris? The park, located just outside of the capital, hosts a Halloween extravaganza every year. The festivities last throughout October. This period gives you plenty of opportunities to experience the park’s magic.

Along with spooktacular decorations, your favorite Disney villains will be meeting and greeting guests of all ages. Parades, shows, and special food are also available. It’s an authentically American Halloween experience in the heart of France.

There Are Numerous Scary French Films To Choose From

You can always watch a scary movie at home if you want to avoid brave haunted tunnels or amusement parks. Instead of the usual Hollywood fare, why not try some French horror films? The French have a history of scaring audiences on the big screen. From the black-and-white classic Les Diaboliques in 1955 to the cult classic Baxter in 1989, there’s something to frighten everyone. If movies aren’t your thing, consider watching the European smash-hit series Les Revenants. It’s about a village where the dead come back to life. 

Celebrate Halloween Your Way

If you’re an expat in France, you’ll quickly realize that the best way to celebrate your favorite holidays away from home is to do it your way. There is no binary of right and wrong ways to celebrate Halloween. While French society may say “non” too American-style celebrations, don’t let that deter you. There’s no reason you can’t throw a Halloween party or go trick-or-treating with other expat parents. If all of that sounds too frightening, you can always stay home and watch a horror movie or a little more kid-friendly. Whatever you choose, you’ll soon discover that you enjoy Halloween in France just as much as you do in your home country.

Halloween In France: 7 Ways To Celebrate

Do we need to pass around some grown-up Normandy apple cider for the American expats in France who are missing out on Halloween pumpkins, costumes, and candy? Take a chance (but it might not be totally necessary.) Frenchly has a few suggestions for Americans (and French) looking to be creeped out this year in Paris and beyond.

Just be aware that Halloween is still controversial in France. Some see the holiday as an invasion of American culture, while others see it as an opportunity to dress up and party. Although traditional Halloween activities such as trick-or-treating have yet to catch on, and Halloween parties in bars and clubs have more people dressed in chambray than in costume, it is still possible to get into the Halloween spirit.

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Here’s how:

Disneyland Paris

Quick Address: Disneyland Paris, 77777 Marne-la-Vallée

Disneyland Paris is fully decorated with pumpkins, ghosts, and other Halloween-themed decorations throughout October for those in desperate need. The Disney ambiance, geared toward children, is the closest thing to an American Halloween vibe that you’ll find in France. From October 29 to October 31, the theme park will host several special Fiendish festivals filled with villains and ghouls. Until November 6, the park remains in Halloween mode.

Parc Asterix 

Quick Address: Parc Asterix, 60128 Plailly

Parc Asterix, France’s second-largest theme park, will host “Peur sur le Parc,” which translates to “Fear in the Park,” north of Paris. A creepy “buffet of horrors,” encounters with horrifying monsters, and unsettling illusions are among the activities. From October 28 to October 31, the park is open until 1 am for “nocturnes,” which include street theatre, ghouls, shows, and other attractions.

Château de Brézé 

Quick Address: Château de Brézé, 2 Rue du Château, 49260 Brézé

This fantastic haunted castle in the Loire Valley is home to ghosts, vampires, witches, and other monsters. A Halloween treasure hunt in the castle’s underground tunnels and the “doomsday bunker” is sure to thrill scaredy-cats looking for PG thrills. 

Chalindrey Witch Festival (also known as Fête des Sorcières) 

Quick Address: Fort du Cognelot, 52600 Chalindrey

Chalindrey, a northeastern town known for a fort known as “Devil’s Point and 16th-century witch hunts,” traditionally celebrates Halloween by hosting a weekend-long witch festival. The festivities begin on Saturday night with a haunting Celtic dance, followed by film screenings, face-painting stalls, and costume competitions.

Halloween Party in Limoges 

Limoges has held an annual Halloween parade or center Ville party since 1996. Every year, around 30,000 visitors flock to see ghosts, ghouls and goblins carry candle lit pumpkins through the streets. Local restaurants, cafes, and bars join in the fun with costume parties and bonbons for the little ones. There is a creepy underground tour, a haunted house, and other attractions.

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The Catacombs 

Quick Address: 1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014 Paris

While not particularly Halloween-y, walking through the Catacombs will give you chills. This spine-chilling tourist attraction (open Tuesday through Sunday) houses the skeletons of approximately 6 million Parisians. The series of winding tunnels stretch over 2 kilometers long and is packed with thousands of bones excavated from the cemeteries during the 18th century. So, beware of finger bones and skulls!

Celebrate All Saints Day (Toussaints), After Halloween (November 1)

Quick Address: Paris, Lyon, or anywhere with a cemetery

While Halloween is a fun American import, Toussaint is a traditional French holiday in which the dead are solemnly mourned. Take a stroll through the flower-decorated graves of Paris’s Père Lachaise, Montmartre, or Montparnasse cemeteries or Lyon’s Loyasse cemetery to mark the end of the Halloween season in a culturally authentic way.

Halloween In France – Vocabulary & Traditions

Although Halloween is not traditionally celebrated in France, it is becoming increasingly famous among young adults and children.

So, how do French people in France celebrate Halloween if they do? What about the French Halloween lexicon? What does the trick or treat mean in French? In this section, I’ll answer all of your questions.

How To Say “Trick Or Treat” In French?

In French, you don’t really say “trick or treat” on Halloween!

The point is to get French kids to use a few English words. A good translation, however, would be in French:

  • “bĂŞtises ou friandises” (mischiefs or sweets),
  • “des bonbons ou un sort” (a spell or candies).

This is what I’ve heard is commonly used in French-speaking Canada. Let’s look at how to say Halloween in French.

50 Halloween French Terms – French Halloween Vocabulary

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Here are some French words for Halloween.

  1. La Toussaint – All Saint Day
  2. Le trente et un octobre – October 31 – here is my free lesson on how to say the date in French.
  3. Halloween – halloween (say it the French way, “a lo ween” – note, no article)
  4. “Friandises ou bêtises” or “Des bonbons ou un sort” – treat or trick
  5. Bonne fête de Halloween – Happy Halloween
  6. Un déguisement, un costume – a costume
  7. Un fantôme – a ghost
  8. Un vampire – a vampire
  9. Une sorcière – a witch
  10. Une princesse – a princess
  11. Un squelette – skeleton
  12. Un épouvantail – a scarecrow
  13. Un diable – a devil
  14. Une momie – a mummy
  15. Un monstre – a monster
  16. Une chauve-souris – a bat
  17. Une araignée – a spider
  18. Une toile d’araignée – spider web
  19. Un chat noir – a black cat
  20. Un potiron, une citrouille – a pumpkin
  21. Une bougie – a candle
  22. Des bonbons – candies
  23. Une maison hantée – a haunted house
  24. Un cimetière – a cemetery
  25. une fée – a fairy
  26. un pirate – a pirate
  27. un homme des cavernes – a caveman
  28. un démon – a demon
  29. une goule – a goul
  30. un zombie – a zombie
  31. un extraterrestre – an alien
  32. Un loup-garou – a werewolf
  33. Le sang – the blood.
  34. Se maquiller – to wear makeup – see my article about French reflexive verbs.
  35. le maquillage – the makeup
  36. une perruque – a wig
  37. un masque – a mask
  38. une cicatrice – a scar
  39. les canines de vampire – the vampire fangs
  40. Se déguiser (en) – to wear a costume, to dress up as
  41. Tu te déguises quoi pour Halloween cette année? – This translates to: How are you dressing for Halloween this year? (using tu and informal construction)
  42. Comment allez-vous vous déguisez? – This translates to: how are you going to dress (using Vous and formal construction)
  43. Je me déguise en sorcière – I am wearing a witch costume or I am dressing-up as a witch
  44. Sculpter une citrouille – to carve a pumpkin
  45. Frapper à la Porte – to knock on the door.
  46. Sonner à la sonnette – to ring the bell
  47. Aller de Maison en Maison – to go from house to house.
  48. Faire peur à quelqu’un – to scare someone
  49. Avoir peur – to be scared
  50. Donner des bonbons – to give candies

And now, let’s tackle THE question: is Halloween celebrated in France heavily?

Do You Have To Celebrate Halloween In France?

In the 1990s, young French hipsters began to hold Halloween costume parties, and some bars and restaurants followed suit. However, Halloween is still primarily a commercial holiday for children and English teachers!

Halloween In France – A Good Commercial Opportunity

Halloween is not a traditional French holiday, but stores try to capitalize on it, and it’s not uncommon to see a “carve your own Halloween pumpkin” (“un potiron” or “une citrouille”) display at your local supermarket.

Pumpkins don’t sell like hotcakes in France, so it’s all right to try to sell them. But I don’t know if the French carve many pumpkins or do anything special for Halloween.

Halloween Is A Fun Way To Encourage French Children To Practice Their English

Because English is taught in elementary school, most children are familiar with Halloween. Many fun Halloween activities can be done, and candies are enough motivation for any child in the world!

Unfortunately, schools rarely organize a trick-or-treating outing because Halloween falls during the mid-season school break (“Les Vacances de la Toussaint”).

No Tricks On Halloween In France

Well, some French neighborhoods are more active than others, but trick-or-treating is not yet a French tradition. So, residents have mixed feelings about being “disturbed” at night by candies by children dressed in costumes.

However, the “trick” part is not permitted in France. That part of the tradition did not survive (yet? ), and French people have yet to have the pleasure of receiving eggs or toilet paper over their fences, trees, or houses.

Only Scary Costumes For Halloween In France

French kids must understand that you don’t have to dress up scary for Halloween. In France, there are no lovely princesses or fairies on Halloween. Only ghosts, zombies, and vampires are allowed. This may be why some French people dislike it.

Costume parties are very popular in France, especially for New Year’s Eve and birthdays, even among adults.

In France, Halloween Is Still Regarded As A Foreign Holiday

Even though Halloween is a popular holiday in larger cities, with parades and other festivities, it remains a “foreign” holiday in smaller countryside villages. Most French people will not have candy on hand, and their homes will not be decorated for Halloween.

We live in a very quiet residential street in “Paimpol,” a small town of 8000 people. We didn’t have trick-or-treaters, but Paimpol’s shopkeeper typically organizes something for the kids at the town center in the afternoon of Halloween. The local businesses give out candy.

Because the kids did not come to my house, I went out in 2019 to look for them in my neighborhood. I ran into two groups of four kids. When I asked why they were dressed up, they said it was for candy. When I asked the kids, “Do you know what day it is today?” I got one “because it’s Halloween” out of eight.

When I asked if they could say “trick or treat” in English or French… They had neither the words nor the tradition. All they knew was that everyone was going to get candy today!

On the other hand, the 2019 parade in the center of town was a huge success. It was held from 4 to 5 pm, and many children and parents attended. The stores could have been more well-decorated. And the costumes were varied: sometimes just a mask, hat, or wig thrown over regular clothes.

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Halloween Is Getting Mixed Reactions From French Folks

The schoolteacher in my parents’ small country village is serious about teaching English and enjoys Halloween’s opportunity to motivate children.

Everyone gathers at school before going trick-or-treating, and guess what? My parents’ house is directly across the street from the school. It’s the one house that all the kids are bound to visit!

My 75-year-old mother despises it. My 80-year-old father adores it.

Halloween Has The Same Ideas As The French Catholic Holiday “La Toussaint”

Unfortunately, November 1 is the Catholic Holiday of “la Toussaint” (All Saints Day), when French people traditionally visit cemeteries, freshen up the tomb displays, and bring colorful mums (“des chrysanthèmes” chrysanthemums, aka mums) symbol of death, never to be given as a bouquet/present that would be a big faux-pas!!) and pray to their ancestors as well as their favorite saints.

November 1 is a holiday in France, and everything is closed. It’s the middle of “Les Vacances de la Toussaint,” so children are present. Families frequently eat together and bring flowers to the cemetery (le cimetière).

If you know any French people who have lost a loved one, now is a good time to express your condolences in French.

These are the same concepts at the heart of Halloween. Halloween could be a great way for younger people to carry on ancient French traditions that are being lost while also incorporating a fun American celebration.

Final Words

Although some of the earliest Halloween traditions originated in Europe, most European countries regard the holiday as primarily American, with little or no fanfare. The French are more focused on Toussaint, or All Saints’ Day, at this time of year. It is observed and celebrated as a public holiday in France on November 1.

On Toussaint, families will gather at the cemetery to light candles in small lanterns and place flowers on the graves of their relatives. Some churches will hold special services, public attractions will be closed, and roads will be congested as French families enjoy the long weekend.

Even though Toussaint is the larger holiday, some American Halloween traditions can be found in major cities such as Paris and Nice. Halloween-themed confectionary displays in chocolatier windows, adults and children dressed up in costumes, parades, witch festivals, and even special events at Disneyland Paris can be found during October, especially toward the end of the month.