Last year, I saw a tiny part of Halloween in France, but this year I embraced it fully with my new British friends! I attended a “fancy dress” (aka costume) birthday party; however, I learned that the Brits usually have a theme! The theme was the 80’s, so here you go (sorry about the lighting!):
This party was two weekends before Halloween. For actual Halloween, I saw a few people around who were dressed up, including my new French neighbors who live across the street . . . and who park directly on the sidewalk in front of my door! Unfortunately, this means that I have to time the opening and closing of my door shutters to occur when they are not home – the only pitfall of my new home so far. Realistically, I normally only close my door shutters if I’m out of town (prevents someone breaking a glass window to break in), so it shouldn’t be a major problem.
I did learn that, unlike my general experience in the US, the Brits will continue to have fancy dress parties AFTER Halloween. The following weekend, one of my new friends’ band was playing both Friday and Saturday in “fancy dress.” There was a costume contest, so an impressive array of costumes were on display. Here’s a quick pic of the band and me being silly in my Gatsby girl costume, complete with a ridiculously large, fur-lined coat!
The Guy Fawkes Bonfire
I was also invited to a “bonfire party,” which is a uniquely English celebration that falls during the same time of year. The Brit who invited me also helpfully explained the history behind the tradition. It all started because of Guy Fawkes and a group of men who planned to blow up parliament and kill the King for his persecution of the Catholics. Guy Fawkes was caught and the plot was unsuccessful, but somehow the tradition of a bonfire party on (or near) November 5th lives on. With it being near Halloween, these parties can involve “fancy dress,” which Americans should note does NOT mean cocktail dresses and suits, but rather costumes. Confusingly enough, “costume” is the French word for suit.
I also learned that they were thinking of trying out the novel idea of having no theme and letting people dress however they like. I had to break it to them that this is the norm in the US – yep, sexy cop will come with Frankenstein . . . it’s just how we roll in the US. Of course, US couples will often follow the same theme, but it’s rare that the entire party is themed.
So, contrary to last year’s general lack of Halloween festivities, I was actually in costume THREE times this year! It should be interesting to see how my first year in France, surrounded by virtually all French people, contrasts with the experiences of my second year, where my social group is now a mix of French and English.
If you’re curious about my first Halloween in France, you’ll find my post here: Part 2: Les Sables d’Olonne and Halloween in France