Monday, November 3, 2008

Joyeux Halloween!

Growing up in France, the closest celebration of Halloween (costume-wise) we had was Mardi Gras, celebrated in February. Nothing like the celebrations of New Orleans or even here in Austin, Mardi Gras in France is more celebrated by children. 

They wear a costume and basically go trick or treating (only we don't have a word for it in French), and I don't personally remember being given candies (maybe a few) but more money! The costumes are not necessarily scary ones, but just whatever you can make a costume with (at least that's how I did it) or can buy (I am not from a big town in France). I remember putting together a gypsy woman costume one year for example. 

I think the big highlight of Mardi Gras for me was that I got to make and eat crepes. Usually, my grandma would come all day and make crepes in the afternoon - which is a common time to make crepes in France. Simple toppings: sugar or fruit preserves. 

Even as a child, Mardi Gras was not anticipated as much as Halloween is, here in the US. I know today Mardi Gras is less and less celebrated in France. So it's no surprise that every year I get so excited during Halloween. I love all the decorations in the neighborhoods, all the parties organized, the children trick or treating and the fact that a lot of people, including adults, do actually celebrate it!

There was suddenly a surge of interest for Halloween in France in the 90s and people started celebrating it. But even though some people still celebrate it, French Halloween is not sticking. I guess you can't force a tradition onto a nation, especially one from another country.

I think I was lucky to be an exchange student at the university of Austin in 2001. It was my first Halloween and I got to go to some crazy student parties and the parade downtown. We were a big group of 10 friends and that's what made it real fun (I wore a French maid outfit).

This year, we have been invited to our friends Alison and Josh's party. They really go all the way and cook a whole Halloween menu. Juan always helps me get into the mood because he's always working on a crazy costume idea weeks before. And this year, he went all the way and created a fantastic "flux capacitor" costume (we both love Back To The Future).

These are the things that make me excited to live in the United-States. So, until we bring back Mardi Gras in France, you will find me celebrating Halloween every year.

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