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🎃 Halloween in France: Vocabulary and traditions

Updated: Oct 27, 2023

Although the French do not celebrate Halloween much, it is a holiday that remains popular among young people. Some children dress up and ring their neighbor's doorbell to receive candy, but this is not very common.


Halloween in France: Children like to dress up, Halloween costumes

But then, how do we celebrate Halloween in France? Discover the vocabulary and traditions of this celebration directly imported from the United States!


"Des bonbons ou un sort !" 🍬


The day after Halloween (November 1) is a public holiday in France. It's "la Toussaint" (the "feast of all saints"). It is a religious festival which pays homage to all the deceased. On this day, we go to the cemetery, to the grave of our deceased loved ones, to lay flowers -- traditionally chrysanthemums. Besides, these flowers are a symbol of death, do NOT offer them to anyone as a gift!


The children therefore do not have school (they are often on vacation), and can go to bed a little later than usual on the evening of October 31. They dress up and go looking for treats! They knock on their neighbors' doors and say "Des bonbons ou un sort !" -- the translation of "Trick or treats!" (literally: "Candies or a spell").


But what do they disguise themselves as? Discover the vocabulary of Halloween in French!


Vocabulary: 40 words to know to celebrate Halloween in France


1. un déguisement - a disguise

2. une perruque - a wig

3. un masque - a mask

4. un citrouille - a pumpkin

5. une bougie - a candle

6. un monstre - a monster

7. un zombie - a zombie

8. un vampire - a vampire

9. une maison hantée - a haunted house

10. une araignée - a spider

11. une toile d'araignée - a spider web

12. une sorcière - a witch

13. un chaudron - a cauldron

14. une chauve-souris - a bat

15. un squelette - a skeleton

16. une momie - a mummy

17. la pleine lune - the full moon

18. un loup-garou - a werewolf

19. un fantôme - a ghost

20. un épouvantail - a scarecrow

21. un diable - a devil

22. un chat noir - a black cat

23. un cimetière - a cemetery

24. un bonbon / une friandise - a candy / a treat

25. un costume - a costume

26. avoir peur - be afraid

27. un film d'horreur - a horror film

28. le sang - blood

29. une cicatrice - a scar

30. un sort - a spell


Scary costumes 🧟‍♀️


Normally, the French are very "serious" regarding their clothing style and appearance. We very rarely dress up at school, and never at work. We don't have an "ugly sweater" for Christmas ("ugly Christmas jumper"), for example, for fear of being ridiculous. Fancy-dress parties are therefore not as popular as with our American friends.


On Halloween night, if you come across people in costumes, it will only be children! The parents accompany them but remain dressed "normally", because it is seen as ridiculous, or perhaps even childish, to dress up as an adult.


Moreover, unlike the United States, we only see scary disguises of vampires, monsters or zombies, sometimes decorated with blood (fake blood, of course!). The French have not understood that they can dress up as a fairy, princess or cute animal! Maybe that's why a lot of people don't like Halloween...


Finally, it is rare to make your own Halloween costume. The majority of people buy it in specialized stores.


scary witch costume for halloween, scary black witch

An increasingly popular commercial festival


Everyone knows Halloween in France, but it's not a very celebrated holiday. It only arrived in France in the 1990s. Compared to Americans, the French rarely dress up, they don't always buy candy and even some don't open the door because they don't don't want to be "disturbed" by the few children who dare to ring their bells at night. Also, we rarely decorate houses and we don't dig pumpkins.


But new generations are more connected and more open to the world, which is why more and more young people want to celebrate Halloween. Some bars and nightclubs organize costume parties. We can see decorations and disguises in stores, the windows are dressed in Halloween colors... For business, it's a good opportunity to attract customers and earn money (like Easter or Christmas...).


Perhaps in the coming years, this is a tradition that will really be followed in France!



And you, do you celebrate Halloween in your country? What do you do in particular?


Celebrate Halloween, dig a pumpkin

Do you want to know French traditions better? Our online French courses allow you to learn the language but also to discover French culture! Register in a few clicks.


Practice your French with the French Coffee Break podcast La Chronique!


Every Friday, I bring you a new episode on France and the French. It's a great opportunity to practice listening comprehension, learn more about French culture and learn new vocabulary thanks to the episode transcripts.


Listen to our Halloween episode:



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