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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The color of trees and Halloween....in France

Some sources say that Celts in northern France celebrated Halloween, but this is unconfirmed. In any case, Halloween is not a traditional French holiday, There is an article at the bottom of my post sharing more about how the French are "sort of" celebrating Halloween. Keep reading! (it's long - get a cup of tea or coffee and relax)
     We've had a marvy day. Autumn is here in the Paris area and the trees are changing their colors. 5 young singles came over to our house so we could experience a little Americana autumn with some French thrown in. We always miss Mexican food here. So, I decided to make homemade Tortilla soup, French style. I used the French Legume (vegetables) soup as the base, plus grilled onions, chili and garlic spiced chicken. I didn't have as much chicken as I thought so I threw in some lardon (bacon) and a jar of salsa. Toss in crumbled tortilla chips right before eating and it pretty much tasted like tortilla soup. We added a salad with apple chunks, roquefort, pecans and framboise dressing. (which is raspberry and added sugar because French dressings are all vinegary). I made a pumpkin pie with our fresh potiron (pumpkin). Don't pronounce it like pot iron. It's poh tee roa. I used the Libby's pumpkin pie recipe that my mom made for many years and many other women in America. I love it! We added some Halloween candy later and a great walk up to the Chateau de Madeleine. Add some sunshine after 2 weeks of clouds and rain and Voila! It was a great day. Magnifique!
     One cannot buy canned pumpkin in France. So, I went on a search for real pumpkins. I could only find these small ones that were extremely orange. Or one can buy slices of real pumpkin. I'm convinced most French have very small refrigerators, like we do and thus couldn't have a whole pumpkin in their fridge after cutting it up anyway. Everything is in smaller packages. Everything. Unless you have a large family like many immigrant families here and then they have to get bigger fridges. Very cute pumpkins but not really great for carving and maybe not for cooking. Ryan and Erin did pick up a lovely tangerine colored one from a pumpkin and apple orchard in Normandy and brought them back for us. Yummy!
     I found out that I could buy some potiron which is partially cooked, cubed and frozen at the neighborhood Picard store. (Pee cahr) Russell is my chauffeur since I haven't begun to drive yet in France. Maybe this week I will practice since the country is on vacation. Off we went to buy 4 bags at 2.45 euros a bag. 2 pies could be made with one bag. I didn't think the cost was too bad. I bought 3 boxes of 2 frozen pates brisées in each box. (pie crusts nicely rolled with parchment), 6 lait evaporés - canned milk. I had sucre, canelle, clous de giroufle, gingembre and sel. Can you guess the spices? I wanted each guest to take the fixins for a pie home with them. I had eggs but figured my guests would already have some at their homes. They were taking the train back and we didn't want egg goo going down their backpacks.
     Thanksgiving, for obvious reasons, is not usually celebrated in France and so many of France's pumpkin growers normally wouldn't be getting a big boon. But some have in recent years because of Halloween. Of course, expats will try to bring a little of America into their kitchens this week with some Halloween decor and making or buying treats. We might actually get some trick or treaters. I'm skeptical, but we did buy some candy just in case. My English/Art students will definitely get some candy. There were orange and black balloons floating from above as we entered the supermarché. A few larger bags of candy were there in the candy section with individually wrapped pieces inside. They were laid on the shelves right in the middle of the Christmas candy, Santa and a few unusual boxes that I thought were valentine boxes. They're really Christmas Advent calendars from Barbie and superheroes. Really? When you think Advent calendars, don't you think of church or home with the family counting the days til Christmas with a traditional holiday theme, usually Jesus.
     I like to digress, and we are really talking about Halloween and how the French do it. I ran across this great article about it and the author said I could share so thank you Laura K. Lawless. - About.com Enjoy!

Kate Kunath /Getty Images

How did Halloween get to France? … Halloween is not a traditional French holiday, yet it becomes more popular every year. How and why this is so is a combination of cultural influence and corporate marketing.
     The French had been hearing about Halloween from foreign residents and tourists and in their English classes for years before the holiday ever showed its (masked) face in France. In 1982, the American Dream bar/restaurant in Paris began celebrating Halloween. At first it had to explain the holiday to each customer, but since about 1995, French customers have tended to be more and more familiar with Halloween.
     The Mask Museum in Saint-Hilaire-Saint-Florent was opened by Cesar group in 1992, and the owners started working to expand Halloween in France the following year.
     Philippe Cahen, president of Optos Opus, claims that he single-handedly "imported" Halloween to France in 1995, despite admitting that Halloween already existed there (nope, doesn't seem like a logical claim to me either). Cahen created Le Samain cake in 1997 and registered the word "Halloween" as a world trademark. He also challenged 25 artists to come up with works with a Halloween theme, and the results were exhibited at the Victor Hugo Clinic.
     In 1996, the village of St. Germain-en-Laye held a Halloween party on 24 October in the middle of the day, to give locals an idea of what it was all about.
     Meanwhile, companies like France Télécom, McDonald's, Disney, and Coca Cola began using pumpkins and other Halloween images and ideas in publicity campaigns. This simultaneously increased French people's knowledge about Halloween.

How is Halloween celebrated in France? Halloween in France is usually celebrated by costumed people of all ages going to parties at friends' homes, restaurants, bars, or clubs. The costumes themselves tend to be traditionally "scary" - mummies, ghosts, goblins, witches, and vampires - rather than the cute costumes like princesses, superheroes, and the cartoon character of the day which are popular in the US. Some recreation centers encourage kids to make their own costumes.
     Trick-or-treating is getting to be more common. It started out store-to-store, rather than house-to-house, but the latter is picking up. However, Halloween occurs during the mid-season school break, which slows it down a bit.
     Stores, malls, restaurants, offices, and homes decorate their windows; pastry and candy shops make up special desserts and candies; and many different kinds of companies use Halloween in their ads. Supermarkets sell pumpkins for jack-o'-lanterns and candy companies are now marketing candy in the traditional Halloween format: one big bag filled with lots of little packages, which may encourage trick-or-treating.
     The growing demand for jack-o'-lanterns during Halloween has been a boon for pumpkin growers. There is even a pumpkin patch at a farm outside of Paris where people can pick their own.
     Halloween in France is rather controversial, due to the perception of corporate and cultural influence, as well as the fact that it is not a typical French holiday and some people still don't understand what is being celebrated. Because Halloween is seen as an American celebration, some French people refuse to enjoy it. It's too early to tell whether Halloween will develop into a long-term tradition; once the novelty wears off, it may turn out to be just a fad. And yet, interestingly, the French have been celebrating the ideas at the very heart of Halloween (respect for the dead) for centuries. 31 October to 2 November, collectively referred to as Toussaint, have traditionally been spent, especially by older generations, visiting cemeteries, honoring saints, and attending religious services.
     So, there you go......Carol