In the past few years, some red-state communities have all but banned Halloween celebrations because of the pagan roots of the holiday. Now, the holiday is under attack — from the left! Or, I should say, a gauche. It’s a victim of French anti-Americanism.
The major dailies Le Monde and Le Parisien reported on Tuesday that following some short-lived popularity, the Halloween holiday has been “pretty much buried.” The reasons seem to be a mixture of falling sales and anti-Americanism. Perchance a smattering of protectionism too. “Our Halloween sales have been falling by half every year since 2002,” Le Monde quoted toy retailer La Grande Recre as saying.
The costume company Cesar, which should otherwise be having a blowout month, proffered the “buried” quote, adding that the death of the holiday was linked to a rise in anti-Americanism.
That likely follows the use of pumpkins, skulls and other typical Halloween imagery in the publicity campaigns of McDonald’s, Walt Disney Company, and Coca-Cola.
The French didn’t hear much about Halloween till the latter part of the 20th century, thanks to the initiative of foreign residents, tourists, and torrential marketing from American companies.
French adults and children alike went on to celebrate Halloween with costume parties and trick-or-treating, while retail businesses cottoned on to the idea that utilizing holiday paraphernalia could get their ads or products noticed.
But the holiday has always been controversial in France. It’s not an archetypal French holiday, and these days it is not even clear what is being celebrated.”Non a Halloween,” a French group set up to stop to trend, has even disbanded, its mission deemed complete. It seems the boycott of this thoroughly commercialized, Americanized event, and entreaty for people to refuse to enjoy it, has worked.
I guess it’s true that Halloween as it is now celebrated is American as apple pie and movies about self-amputation. But of course, the roots of the holiday are a meshing of Anglo-Saxon and Christian traditions, and folklore about witches, ghosts and the idea that, at certain times of year, the spirit world intersects with the physical.
This poem, “Halloween” by Robert Burns can bring you back to a sense of what the celebration felt like in Scotland in 1785. Here’s how it ends:
Wi’ merry sangs , an’ friendly cracks ,
I wat they did na weary;
And unco tales, an’ funnie jokes —
Their sports were cheap an’ cheery:
Till butter’d sowens ,16wi’ fragrant lunt ,
Seta’ their gabs a-steerin;
Syne , wi’ a social glass o’strunt ,
They parted aff careerin
Fu’ blythe that night.
I swear, it all makes sense…after a few ales. The links are all to The Robert Burns Club of Milwaukee’s Glossary of the Scots Dialect.
(Photo, “Sea of Pumpkins” by innusa)