Halloween is not a tradition in France. It was totally unknown when I was a child, it was just something out of American movies, that we did not fully understand. I discovered Halloween for real in Ireland, and I totally embraced it! I am now a big fan (that’s not an allusion to my weight, just my enthusiasm) and I have been trying to convert all the French from France who
stupidely unjustly think it’s an artificial holiday created recently by Americans to make money sellings sweets to innocent children. Ahaha, it’s amazing how the French some people seem to have very definite ideas on subject they know nothing about.
Halloween has been celebrated for centuries, well, for millennia really in Ireland, and its Gaelic name is Shamain. Apparently, it’s pronounced something like “sawhin” but I am not sure. My Gaelic is atrocious, I can hardly
sneeze say “hello”, “thank you” , “city centre” and “Apple”. When Marichéri and I arrived in Ireland 19 years ago, we were welcomed by a poor girl who had been assigned by our company to great the oversea recruits. She had a name tag with “Aoife” on it, so of course, the twelve of us (all French send by the company to work in Dublin) called her “whaouf” (a bit like a dog’s bark) for days, until someone kind enough (to her) explained… Anyway, let’s go back to Halloween.
A lot of people, including Wikipedia think Shamain (or Samhian, it’s confusing) was the God of the dead in Prehisctoric Irleand, but some Druids (I am very fond of Druids, I find them utterly charming in their enthusiasm for anything weird and
mad implausible but for some reason, every time I talk about them on my other blog, they get angry ) specialising in Halloween explain that it only means end of summer and beginning of summer. Yes both. But for Druids, it makes perfect sense. Because when the summer finishes for us mere mortals (well, at least for me, I don’t know about you…), it starts in the underworld of the spirits and all those fantastic creatures who frankly have no manner and raise from the ground or wherever they are at every occasion, just to annoy the poor mortals who are busy with harvest and don’t have the time to play with them.
Anyway, Halloween was a bit like New Year’s Eve now. People were celebrating the end of the year, and getting ready for the next one, by eating and drinking a lot. All the farming work was done, the cattle was in for the winter, it was time to have a little fun at least, before the long, dark and damp Irish winter. Except on the 31st October, some sort of passageways or portholes or something (I am not an expert on transport, let alone esoteric ones) opened, whizz, just like that, and all the bad spirits used them to gate crash the party. Well, if it was indeed the start of summer holiday for them, maybe they wanted to celebrate, but sill, it’s rude. So the celts used to leave food out for the bad mannered spirits, so they would go back to wherever they came from and be sick there (because even a bad spirit can have indigestion at Halloween, with all that sugar). And for the spirits who didn’t want to eat (I don’t know, they could have had allergies or be on a diet to achieve their beach body before December…), the prehistoric celts tried to scared them away by dressing up as monsters themselves or by chanting prayers from houses to houses. I can only approve: spirits who come to a party uninvited and get on everybody nerves by talking about how they are watching their figure and should you eat that many candy apples (well, it’s fruit, it’s part of my five a day), those spirits definitely deserve to be scared away!
While they were celebrating, the celts decided that they could also use that holiday for something else, no point in wasting a perfectly nice holiday like that only on some uncivilised bad spirits. So the 31st October also became the day to celebrate your ancestors. The dead were invited to come back and have fun too. While the portholes were opened , why not use them? It must have been awfully busy at those portholes, worse than Liverpool street station in London on the first day of the January sales….now, that could be tricky: how do you make the difference between a bad spirit that should be sacred away and your great aunt Maureen back from the dead? Or what if your great aunt Maureen was horrible and could have only morphed into a bad spirit ? So the mortals who must have been literally over booked on Halloween decided to light up bonfires, who were purifing the air, and getting rid of the bad spirits but not of the ancestors (what about the one with asthma? ). Well, here we are, that is more or less the origin of Hallween.
So every year,
in my own insane way patiently I tell the French the story of Halloween, a festival that goes back to prehistoric time, in Ireland. Not last century in America then. And even if it was, how could that be a good enough reason not to celebrate it? I don’t get the French sometimes, why do you absolutely want to be some grumpy killjoy who moans perched on top of your “exceptional” traditions? Why are they better that the rest? Because, in France, the only tradition we have around that time of year is to go to cemeteries on the 1rt November and to put some horrible flowers on graves…well, I don’t want to be picky, but I much prefer eating sweets and having fun with my kids.