Halloween in Paris was a truly odd experience. For weeks I’ve been told that Halloween is out of style here, that nobody dresses up, that it’s really an American holiday. At the same time though, store windows were filling up with pumpkins and witches, and all the ads for EuroDisney have featured kids in skeleton costumes riding roller coasters. I was getting two conflicting impressions and even now, after seeing EuroHalloween with my own eyes, I’m not quite sure how to classify it.
Trick-or-treating doesn’t exist here, so Cassie stages a candy hunt for her kids every year. They dress up in costumes and search through the garden of their “house in the South” while she bakes a pumpkin pie and they attempt to recreate American Halloween. C hates it though – all through dinner yesterday she was telling me how much she hates Halloween here. “Halloween is not French,” she kept repeating. She thinks the spirit of the holiday is what can’t be exported, so the sad attempts to achieve it are entirely commercial.
That explains the store windows. The Disney Store on the Champs Elysées has been decorated for weeks, and is the only place I ever saw selling anything like a costume – though I somehow couldn’t bring myself to attempt to squeeze into an overpriced, pre-made “Halloween Stitch” outfit. I haven’t missed dressing up for Halloween in…well ever, and I wasn’t about to break the tradition this year just because I’m not in the U.S.
I have very limited costume-assembling supplies here though, and the only thing I could come up with was a pirate costume again (a repeat from freshman year) – pirates are easy, you just need a scarf, fluffy layers and a lot of weird jewelry. All I wanted to buy was an eyepatch, but it proved to be impossible to find. I finally thought I’d be clever and go to a pharmacy – where I managed to secure one. Sadly, when I opened up the package to put it on, I discovered a massive clear plastic cup with holes and an adjustable white band that covered nearly half my face. Not pirate-y.
Luckily I had my sparkly scull scarf, because otherwise I would have just looked like a hobo. At home you can’t go anywhere at anytime on Halloween without seeing a dozen costumed people – the whole day is festive. Here, it was just another day.
I at least expected to see a few costumes at night because come one, who doesn’t love a themed party or club night? I had to babysit until 23h, so once I was off I threw together my pirate ensemble and ran down to La Scala, the site of the Sciences Po Halloween party. There were quite a few people in the street on the way there, but in completely normal clothes – I got a lot of weird looks sprinting down Pyramides dressed as a pirate. Handily for me, La Scala is a 5 minute walk from my apartment. Straight down Pyramides and left at Rivoli, then bam, there it was.
There was a huge line waiting to get into the party, and out of the maybe 70 people in it, there were about 15 of us in costume. When I say “in costume” though, I’m being generous – most of the costumes were regular clothes with a pair of bunny ears or devil horns. The four of us, a pirate, a 20s girl, a yoga teacher and a jazzercise teacher were some of the most dressed up people. My 10-minute costume was the most elaborate I saw all night.
The whole thing was just really odd. The club was decorated because it was a themed party, and people in costume got a free drink at the bar – I would have thought a free cocktail would have been enough to motivate people to do something festive, but no. Anyone in anything beyond an antennae headband was clearly American, and we stuck out like crazy people.
It was still crazy fun, and I always love to dress up, but the night made me really miss Halloween at home! I love holidays and this October 31st just didn’t really satisfy my cravings for festivity.
Anyway, now it’s November in Paris, and the entire city is celebrating Toussaint. Well not celebrating – observing. Yep, All Saint’s Day is a national holiday here (France is still very influenced by its Catholic upbringing), and Paris is dead quiet. This day of rest would seem a little more apt if Halloween had been wild in the slightest. Oh well. I got to wear a costume, eat some pumpkin pie and watch the Halloween episode of Spongebob Squarepants with Paul, so I got to do a little celebrating at least.
I’m flying to Barcelona early tomorrow morning to meet Christina, so I’ll be nonexistent until at least Sunday. Happy Toussaint.