Wednesday, November 01, 2006


Horrible Hallowe'en Prank

Halloween Declared Dead In France

according to Forbes.

I heard the same thing on French television last evening (Hallowe'en). They had sent a crew to film in a toy store (Toys R Them, I think) where a merchandising manager showed the much smaller section dedicated to Hallowe'en merchandise this year, down to about a fifth what it was five years ago.

I suspect we are just experiencing a post-novelty peak period. When Hallowe'en was "launched" in France a few years ago, it did have major commercial backing and those commercial efforts were not without commercial ambitions. Since it was "new", nobody already had costumes and decorations, so the potential was great. The situation was somewhat analogous to introduction of new technology, like CDs: nobody had any, they had vinyl LPs or cassettes, so initially they bought lots to (re-)constitute their music library. A few years later, they were only buying CDs at "cruising" rates and the record companies started blaming Internet downloads for their missed sales targets!

Now that French kids have costumes -- they don't need new ones every year, and they can use them for Mardi Gras, too -- sales are down. Not everyone welcomes trickortreators, but they just say "no", they don't put razor blades in apples or drugs in candy. Nursery schools and private day-care centers organize costume parties. Every night-club around (at least in this area) had a Hallowe'en party; why not, All Saints Day is a holiday so partiers can sleep late (or all day after they come home from church).

To estimate how much candy to buy (so I wouldn't have to dash out to a store at 19:30 to re-stock, as I did a few years ago) I figured "about the same as last year", which I didn't note but recollect to have been about thirty trickortreators. According to my log, I received thirty-four in twelve groups. I did not take photos, but trust me, the costumes and make-up were as good or better than in past years.

The translation of "trick or treat" is problematic. "Des bonbons ou un sort" ("Candy or a spell") is perhaps the one I find most acceptable. A variant which I really, really dislike is perhaps merely a mistake by some who heard "bonbons ou un sort" and just got the last word wrong by a consonant, is "des bonbons ou la mort!" ("candy or die!"). Now I'm wondering about the differences between evil spells, curses, hexes and jinxes.

I went out early the next morning with my camera to record any soaped windows, tipped-over outhouses, TP-ed yards, and various remnants of decorations. Also the posters for the parties in the discos and night-clubs. It was quiet (and cold). I passed people on their way to church. I did not see any soaped windows; I didn't even see candy wrappers littering the sidewalks. But there had been pranksters active during the night, and their prank was most unpleasant: all the posters for disco parties had been covered by posters for "Le Pen vite!". The spectre of nationalism lurks, and won't die.

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