Foreign Trick-or-Treaters Just Horrify the French
WILLIAM J. KOLE
Oct. 30, 1995
NOISY-LE-ROI, France (AP) _ Trick or treat! It's almost Halloween _ and the French are scared stiff.
The popular American holiday isn't on the calendar in France. But that hasn't stopped some transplanted Americans, Canadians and Britons from importing it _ much to the horror of the French, who cherish their privacy and tend to shun strangers.
``It's bizarre,'' said Jean-Pierre Leclercq, a bus driver. ``Little monsters! I don't want them in my garden.''
On Tuesday night, scores of costumed children will go door to door in the leafy suburbs west of Paris where many foreigners settle, seeking out the homes where porch lights and grinning jack o' lanterns signal fellow expatriates.
But kids are kids, and the excitement and lust for candy is strong enough to drive some to the darkened houses of French neighbors _ creating a cross-cultural comedy that plays out every year:
A Frenchman, hearing an unexpected knock on the door, flings it open and stares down blankly at the small ghost, goblin, pirate or princess who has penetrated his hedged-in fortress and now stands on his doorstep.
Trick? One French woman confided that she feared for her rose bushes, terrified that the little sword-wielding, masked Zorro outside might slice off all those lovingly cultivated buds.
Treat? Desperate to end an awkward encounter, a flustered Frenchman said he once tossed a small but expensive tin of foie gras into the bag of an equally bewildered American child.
``It is kind of a strange holiday when you think about it: You dress up and beg for candy,'' said Gina Starleaf, an American from Indiana organizing this year's expatriate trick-or-treating in Noisy-le-Roi, about 15 miles west of Paris.
``It's really funny,'' said Starleaf, who will lead about 100 children this year. ``Last year, a French lady put out a pumpkin, but she didn't have any candy so she handed out cough drops _ medicated adult cough drops.''
Modern Halloween trick-or-treating traces its roots to Britain, but the holiday is celebrated spottily around Europe and most often by foreigners, not Europeans.
North American and English children go door-to-door in Waterloo, a Brussels suburb with a sizeable English-speaking population. Some British youngsters also trick-or-treat, though most prefer the English equivalent on Nov. 5, Guy Fawkes Day.
In Italy, Halloween has become a theme night at some discotheques, where people wearing monster masks dance the night away.
But Halloween is virtually unheard of in France, even though it's home to Cesar SA, the world's largest maker of caricature masks. During the Gulf War, the company in Saumur, about 160 miles southwest of Paris, did a lively business selling scowling Saddam Hussein masks to the U.S. market for Halloween.
``It's grotesque,'' said Bernard Ewenczyk, a Paris businessman. ``To knock on the door dressed like that is very strange. It's unknown in France. For me, it's completely against our culture.''
This Halloween, Starleaf thinks a few French families may actually join in the fun Tuesday evening _ but just a few.
``I was walking along the street once with my daughter all dressed up as a ballerina in a tutu, and people were really looking her over,'' she said.
``You could tell they were thinking, `What on Earth is going on here?'''