Oct 31st, 2015, 01:38 PM

Why Does No One Celebrate Halloween in Paris?

By Alice Preat
Halloween party in the Catacombs, anyone? Image Credit: jpitha via Flickr
Read about why Halloween, a pagan tradition that has its roots in France, may be so under-celebrated in Paris.

The Origins 

“Halloween,” the shortened version of “All Hallow’s Evening,” is a celebration dedicated to the dead, including saints (hallows), martyrs, and all of the departed. Halloween's origins trace back to pagan roots, such as the Gallic people, or the Gauls. For those of you who don’t know, the Gauls are the people who comprised France's population during the Iron Age. Today, Halloween is celebrated in numerous countries on the night of October 31st, during which people traditionally dress up in costumes and go trick-or-treating to get candy, or go to costume parties. However, Halloween celebrations are muted in France, the country where this pagan tradition started, compared to the commercialized and dedacent Halloween celebrations in the United States. 

The Celebrations

In America, Halloween is celebrated by people of all ages. Restaurants and stores put up their decorations weeks in advance, and on the night itself, everyone is roaming the streets in scary and thoughtful costumes heading either to parties or to doorsteps to ask for candy.

In Paris, it's a different story: some people do still dress up in costumes and go to parties, but most see themselves as too old for Halloween celebrations. Here, Halloween is a night for children, and for the few older people who have the willpower to find a costume and who aren’t embarrassed to wear it.

“I just put on cat ears every year," says Sofia, a 21-year-old French student. "I’m not going to spend money on a costume that I’ll only wear once.” French people between their last teen years and their mid-twenties will follow the basic costume necessities like Sofia: they'll wear a little accessory and call that their “costume” when they’re asked at the party of the night. 

The Reasons

So, why don’t people—especially young people—in Paris really care to celebrate Halloween, even though its origins are here? Why do young Americans embrace Halloween more than the French?

"It’s just not as much fun when you get older, I think people would rather remember Halloween as the great celebration that it was when we were kids, rather than turn it into a night of binge-drinking and 'sexy-everything' costumes," says Sofia. Others say it might be due to the city’s fast pace life, as well as its high regard and value for class, chic, and high fashion.

"Everything is so fast here," explains Lou Pascollini, a 20-year-old Parisian. "We can barely keep up with our everyday lives as it is, do you really think we have time to plan a costume and go buy it?"

As for Paris’ fashion standards, they probably also play a role in the Halloween “non-celebrations:” Parisians are notable snobs when it comes to fashion.

“I think a Halloween costume wouldn’t be fashionable enough for a lot of us," says Pascollini. "People here give way too much importance to their physical appearance, their style…In the States, they don’t really care: you can walk around all day in sweatpants and that’s perfectly normal!"

What to do

Despite all of this, there are still ways to enjoy Halloween in Paris; you'll just have to get over the fear of going costume-crazy in a city with high fashion standards. Plan ahead, buy a funny or scary costume in a shop (yes, there are costume shops in Paris!), and if you don’t have the time or means to do so, make your costume yourself.

Go to a few parties, scare your friends (and strangers on the street, that never hurts) and motivate the people around you to dress up with you. If you can't find an invitation to a Halloween soiree, many bars, restaurants, and clubs have begun catering to the Halloween theme, advertising costume parties and special events. Finally, try not to worry too much about what Parisians think of Halloween and of your costume. Try to live it like you did when you were a child: just enjoy yourself and scare away.