Good Times

Halloween in Paris

Happy Sunday and a belated happy Halloween to all!

Been a bit negligent of my actual France related posts recently, so I thought I’d stick one in here to remind everyone that I do, in fact, live in Paris, and not Germany or Oman or what have you. We’re at the end of our (still inexplicable) 2 week break from classes here in France, so to see it off in style I celebrated Halloween with some of my fellow expats in town!

My jack-o-lantern. Mwahaha.

My jack-o-lantern. Mwahaha.

The concept of Halloween is not exactly foreign to the French (or at least to the Parisians, I really need to stop acting as though they represent the entire population) but neither is it popular amongst them. According to my students, about 10-ish years ago (early 2000’s, late 1990’s, that sort of time) the fad of Halloween jumped across the Atlantic (or the English channel, I really don’t know which has a stronger influence here) and made its way to France. Therefore, most of my students remember going trick-or-treating at least a few, if not many, times as children. (The phrase doesn’t translate exactly into French, but they say a variety of things like “La Bourse ou la vie” or “bonbons ou bâton”, that kind of terrifying thing.) However, unlike in other countries that have since adopted this amazingly fun and excellent (Biased? Me? Never!) tradition, it turns out the French didn’t go nuts about it enough to really keep it cracking. That being said, globalization and commercialism play just as much of a role here as anywhere, so it didn’t entirely fade. My students informed me that nowadays Halloween is mostly just an excuse for a party, regardless of wearing costumes, or something that expats do, perhaps celebrated by a few children here and there.

Naturally, had to live up to my students’ expectations! My friends and I decided to make Thursday a sort of Halloween spectacle going all day, and thus planned to meet outside the infamous Paris Catacombs in the afternoon to take a tour of dozens of skull-and-bones lined tunnels. Alas, upon arrival, we realized that we were clearly not the only people in town with that idea, as the line stretched on and on and on AND ON, and what was worse is that it didn’t seem to be moving. At all.

So, we abandoned that idea with a bit of reluctance, and moved on to a plan B. We made our way to several produce markets and finally succeeded in finding one that sold reasonably well sized pumpkins for reasonable prices. Two were purchased with glee. Next stop, a supermarket, where candy and drinks for the evening were purchased. Having already brought our costumes we popped onto a metro and out to the apartment of two of the group for celebration time.

My pumpkin (right) and the other pair's on the left. Both creepy in very different ways. Success.

My pumpkin (right) and the other pair’s on the left. Both creepy in very different ways. Success.

There were only four of us, so we sort of split into two pairs of two to decide how to decorate the pumpkins. Due to a persistent lack of creativity when asked point-blank for it, I resorted to googling phrases such as “awesome pumpkin” or “scary pumpkin” on my phone until several designs were chosen as top picks. I made my friend do the drawing on the actual pumpkin, and then I had the glorious task of meticulously carving it out. (Never give the borderline OCD person the knife, kids. I spent far too long filleting slender pumpkin slices off of that face.)

Our pumpkins finally carved, we turned off the lights for a bit of a glamorous pumpkin photo shoot, and then turned the attention on ourselves to get ready. I was sort of already dressed, because, erm, my costume was easy. I wanted to be Katniss from the Hunger games, which pretty much has a simple list of requirements unless you’re going for one of her one-time dresses or something: 1) Fancy braid in hair 2) Green cargo-ish or kind of straight-legged pants 3) Army boots 4) Brown leather or black rain jacket 5) Black shirt 6) Bow and arrow 7) Mockingjay pin.

Sometimes, you're not in America where a mockingjay pin would be relatively easy to come by around Halloween. So you make your own. (From a distance the brown blended in with my jacket. Supposedly.)

Sometimes, you’re not in America where a mockingjay pin would be relatively easy to come by around Halloween. So you make your own. (From a distance the brown blended in with my jacket. Supposedly.)

So, half of that was easy enough. I ended up buying a pair of green pants because I knew I’d wear them again and found some for quite a cheap price at Paris’ newly opened Forever 21 (although fighting the OBSCENE crowds in that store put me in like a 24 hour long bad mood, ugh) but other than that, only spent money on a really cheap plastic kids’ bow and arrow set I found in a costume store. I couldn’t justify buying any boots, so I just sort of fudged the look with boots I had, and then drew a mockingjay pin with some markers. Super fancy costume? No. But super cheap? Oh yes. God yes. Which is quite desirable, let me tell you. The other members of my group were dressed as a “Highlander” (AKA, the Scot painted his face blue/white, wore a Scottish flag as a cape, MADE A SWORD in like 10 minutes, and wore his kilt from home. Applause.), a mummy, and a very sultry demoness who I took a thousand pictures of because her makeup was SO great.

Highlander, Katniss, and a somewhat disheveled mummy. (It took more bandages than he'd bargained for to cover even half his body.)

Highlander, Katniss, and a somewhat disheveled mummy. (It took more bandages than he’d bargained for to cover even half his body.)

After having a bit of a party for ourselves in their apartment, we finally decided to head out, decked in costumes galore and attracting MANY a stare, to meet some other friends in the bars of Montmartre. We ended up hitting two Irish pubs (in other words, expat places where Halloween would be properly recognized) on the same street as the Moulin Rouge, which is always interesting to be on given that it is filled with sex shops (what did you expect?) and an interesting crowd, much less on Halloween when tons of “bloody” French and expats are waltzing around. At the first bar we just had a good chat with the friends who met us there, and at the second a live band was playing all kinds of rock music from various eras, and they were EXCELLENT, so we had a great time singing along and jumping around and occasionally talking to the other people there, which included plenty of French people who simply know a good holiday when they see one. 😉

My lovely friend in her glamorous demoness getup, smoking while waiting for the metro. She just looked so fantastic!

My lovely friend in her glamorous demoness getup, smoking while waiting for the metro. She just looked so fantastic!

Kind of glossing over the details of that part of the evening but there’s not particularly much to tell other than that, we missed the last metros home so we ended up grabbing a couple of taxis (notoriously difficult at that hour) and heading home. I think everyone had a pretty good time overall, although there were splotches of mischief throughout the night. But personally I had a blast-I got to celebrate one of my favorite holidays by carving pumpkins, eating chocolate, and (sort of) dressing up. Magnifique!

And now, time for a bit of lesson planning for the return to classes tomorrow, and then bed.

-B

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