Since an early age, my mother tortured me by resisting my pleas for pre-packaged princess costumes in favor of handmade couture confections. Much of growing older is recognizing the tremendous sacrifices my parents have made to help me realize my dreams. One year in particular, no effort was spared to transform me into Catwoman for a few short hours. My mom locked herself away for the evening, applying decorative puffy paint stitches to my impeccable Catwoman costume until she sent me off to school the next morning, exhausted but not forgetting my parcel of orange Rice Krispie treats. Hereditarily, I have adopted the same do-or-die approach to the holidays. The festivities cannot begin without at least one all-nighter, a tearful breakdown, and a nail-biting countdown. Luckily, in France, holidays lack the high stakes of their commercial counterparts stateside. I can finally take a deep breath. But despite the tedious door codes which prohibit competitive trick-or-treating, Halloween is slowly infiltrating French culture…

left: humorous drawing of a jack-o-lantern smoking a cigarette with a grey beret and grey frammed glasses; right: a green cauldron with several jack-o-lanterns smouldering within and a sign behind that says pumpkin soup.
drawing by Jessie Kanelos Wiener

France has not remained completely immune to the Hallmark holidays that result in a front-yard inflatable for every month of the year Stateside.

DisneyLand Paris is a go-to spot for Halloween fun, shipping in over 25 tons of pumpkins for their Halloween festivities. Even at my local Monoprix supermarket, there is not only a premature display of Père Noël-covered chocolates, but a full wall of Halloween candies, masks, and face paint. Similarly, self-serious French pumpkins do not make faces. They are most commonly limited to the base of a pumpkin soup. To my surprise, on a recent trip to the market I found a bin of pumpkins painted with triangular eyes and snaggle teeth, alongside careful instructions on how to make a jack-o’-lantern. Additionally, due to the demands of the sizable expat community, Halloween parades, costumed kids, and trick-or-treaters have started filling the streets. Halloween would not be complete without the ubiquitous images of drunk girls in questionable costumes on the Metro, and there’s some of that now as well.

Left: some trick or treaters at a gray door, saying 'allo?'; right: a bunch of jack-o-lanterns in a French country market, all hand drawn cartoons.
drawing by Jessie Kanelos Wiener

As if marrying French were not enough, I always have high ambitions of building Franco-American bridges as an expat, sharing everything but cheeseburgers with my French friends. But with a low-tolerance for public costume wearing and cinnamon in sweet dishes, my Halloween party for French friends a few years back was a flop. I carefully crafted his & her costumes for my husband and I. My logic was that being dressed as Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg would certainly sway the party gods in our favor. But my husband was not having it. “Allez, all you have to do is unbutton your shirt and take off your glasses” I pleaded, hunched over, zipping up my gogo boots. “I promise I will sing you “je t’aime moi non plus” when the party is over.” Only one enthusiastic guest came in costume. At the end of evening, I was the fool wearing a plastic minidress, begging my guests to try the pumpkin pie.

Given my festive, over-achieving spirit, it’s a relief that Halloween in France can be completely optional. And frankly, I just don’t have the time this year. I have little over one month to recreate the Île Saint-Louis in gingerbread before Christmas.

Happy Halloween.

Written by Jessie Kanelos Weiner. Looking to travel? Check out Plum Guide and our Marketplace for fabulous vacation rentals in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long or short term, or buy in France? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates. Looking to bring France home to you or to learn online or in person? Check out marketplace shop and experiences.


Jessie Kanelos Weiner

Jessie Kanelos Weiner is a bilingual artist, illustrator and author based in Paris. She illustrates for a many prestigious clients. Her signature watercolor style is commissioned from luxury houses (Cartier, Free People, Atelier Cologne), food brands (Nespresso, Great Jones, Elle à Table) and editorials (Vogue, New Yorker, T MAG). She is currently painting large-scale watercolors and creating her next book about watercolor with Artisan. Jessie is also an ambitious home cook and also appears occasionally as a standup comedian. She is represented by Lipstick London.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *