This afternoon I’ve worked at a children's Hallowe’en party. I considered wearing a long black skirt but settled for trousers after having a nightmarish vision of children standing on, or even tripping over my skirt! I did, however, dust off the green face paint to cover my face, neck, ears, arms and hands and the red face paint for my lips. I borrowed a witchy hat on arrival at the party and was suitably impressed with the overall effect. It was a… wicked… party and everyone had lots of fun!
All of this talk of Hallowe’en, one of the oldest holidays around the world, made me wonder: Just how – and when – did Hallowe’en originate and how is it celebrated in the German and French-speaking communities?
The Origins Of Hallowe'en
In Ireland today, festivities involve bonfires, dressing up in costumes, going “trick-or-treating” and attending parties, at which one game might be to hang apples from strings and see if people can bite into them without touching them with their hands. There’s a card game, too, where sweets and coins are laid under cards, and children win whatever prize is hidden under the card they choose. These are by no means the only traditions.
The Rise Of Hallowe'en
In addition to trick-or-treating, pumpkin carving is a very popular activity. Taking the top off the pumpkin and scooping out the insides, people take great pride in carving intricate designs into their hollowed-out pumpkins. A candle placed inside the pumpkin gives it an eery, spooky glow!
Costumes became popular for Hallowe’en parties in the United States in the early 1900s, for adults as well as for children. As trick-or-treating became increasingly popular, costumes started to be produced on a wider scale. They can resemble not just witches, but also vampires, ghosts, skeletons and devils.
Hallowe'en In The German And French-Speaking Communities
Hallowe'en In Austria
Hallowe'en In Belgium
Hallowe'en In France
Back in 1982, a venue in Paris (the American Dream bar/restaurant) began celebrating Hallowe’en. Initially the venue had to explain the holiday to its many customers but the celebration has become more widely known in recent years. In 1992, the Mask Museum opened in Saint-Hilaire-Saint Florent and the owners of the Museum worked hard to spread the word the following year.
In 1996, the village of Saint Germain-en-Laye held a Hallowe’en party a week early in broad daylight, on 24th October, to give villagers a chance to see what it was all about. Publicity campaigns involving pumpkins became more frequent but their use by such companies as Disney and McDonald’s simply fuelled the French belief that this was just another attempt by the Americans to impose their cultural traditions on the French.
These days, the French will dress up in costumes – often scarier ones such as mummies, ghosts and witches – but the tradition of trick-or-treating has yet to really catch on. You’ll find a range of Hallowe’en goodies in shop windows, and pumpkins are sold ready for carving. But despite the fact that the Hallowe'en tradition may be taking hold in France, many French people still see it as largely corporate-driven and some still don't understand what exactly they are celebrating.
Hallowe'en In Germany
Hallowe’en is associated in many countries around the world with the Catholic All Saints Day (1st November). In Southern Germany there is a celebration that stretches from 30th October right through to 8th November. Germans may attend church services, or visit the cemetery to honour family members and others that they have lost. Trick-or-treating does happen very occasionally in Germany but, for the most part, it hasn’t really caught on in the country.
How Do You Celebrate Hallowe'en?
Here's me in my Hallowe'en costume this afternoon - just before the addition of my the wickedly amazing black witchy hat and before I'd also painted my nails black!
How did you celebrate Hallowe'en this year? I'd love to see photos of your costumes. Why not visit the Indigo Languages Facebook page and post them there, in the comments under the link to this blog post?