Halloween is not traditionally celebrated in France, but French author Evelyne Bloch-Dano says the holiday began to spread to her country in the 1990s. Bloch-Dano says that many urban and older French people scoff at Halloween as too American and commercial; children in the countryside, however, enjoy trick-or-treating.
French Christians observe the Feast of All Saints, visiting cemeteries and bringing chrysanthemums to their loved ones.
In Bloch-Dano’s book Vegetables: A Biography, she writes that pumpkins themselves have seen resistance in France. Eighteenth century chefs looked down on the vegetable, though today’s cooks enjoy it. French food personality Jean-Pierre Coffe has popularized a soup made by baking a pumpkin filled with bread, cheese, nutmeg, mushrooms, and crème fraîche.
Bloch-Dano points out that while the French are eating pumpkins, the vegetable still has some linguistic ground to make up. African and Asian cultures link pumpkins to smarts, fertility and even immortality, but European terms for squashes and gourds have negative associations, many of them gendered. Gourde is a French word for an awkward, stupid woman. Other European idioms refer to these vegetables as “empty skulls”.
Want more pumpkins and Halloween trivia? Listen to Evan’s interview about the history of Halloween with Linda Civitello.