Halloween. How amusing to see how this most American of holidays has integrated itself, ingratiated itself, into the Parisian psyche and lifestyle.
My recent memories of Halloween are of children dressed in costume—a ghost, a Batman, a Hello Kitty, a Telly Tubby—going door to door trick-or-treating. Depending on the age of the children, a parent or two—usually not in costume—may also be a peripheral part of the group. Those households aware of the burgeoning tradition in Australia—usually those also with young children—dutifully have a bowl of candy ready by the front door to dispense treats to the young visitors, generally unwilling to be surprised by the tricks that might be played if they are treatless. Householders with a distaste for dispensing candy are armed with apples, dried apricots, or fruit leather, ever on the lookout for ways to positively influence the dietary habits of the young and impressionable. These healthy treats duly discarded by the gate on the way to the next opportunity for the acquisition of dental caries.
In recent years, the adoption of Halloween outside of the U.S. as a day, and night, for adults to let down their hair, dress up, and generally make a nuisance of themselves in the name of tradition has flourished exponentially. Twenty-something’s fresh out of youth, still harbouring a healthy dose of rebelliousness, have embraced this wave most emphatically; though I'm also aware that age is no barrier to a bit of dress-up fun.
This week in Paris second-hand clothing stores have been filled to overflowing; the perfect Halloween costume beckoning from the engorged racks of last year’s designer apparel. How strange to see an orderly queue of shoppers half way down a busy city block outside a costume and novelty store, awaiting their turn to enter and browse.
This year appears to be the year of the zombie. I felt a pang of pity for the sickly looking youth dispensing my cafe latte at my local cafe this morning. So pale, skin red and blotchy, some even flaking off in patches. I wondered if he might be malnourished, homeless, or suffering from progeria—a degenerative disorder that curiously causes the body to age prematurely. On closer inspection . . . oh, it's makeup. Thank goodness.
In the evening, many faces are painted white with varying degrees of scarring and decay embellishing the pallor. Vampire teeth are added here and there by those who prefer this flavour of the un-dead. Packs of zombies, vampires, and witches roam the streets of Beaubourg and Le Marais in search of unsuspecting tourists to ambush, or the perfect lamp-lit street corner in which to put on a show of their zombie-ness.
A couple of well lubricated young female zombies stagger towards us. They put on a rousing show of their terrifying nature, then hesitate, hoping for a reaction. Andy squeals loudly, in French:
They are appeased, and move on in search of their next victims.
In the final analysis it all feels false and unconvincing. A foreign holiday imposed on a resistant culture. The future years are sure to bring increasing homogeneity to the global village. Children all over the world will grow up believing that giant pumpkins have glowing eyes, and that on Halloween, adults as well as children dress up and act out their childhood fantasies. For today, however, Halloween in Paris is a resounding non-event . . .
October 31st, 2014.