Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Calling All Saints



Down below my window, a band of children are chanting "Fous le camp! Fous le camp!" with the snaps of firecrackers to punctuate their disenchantment. Get the h*ll out of here, indeed. Earlier, an older group of adolescents let out several rounds of a brouhaaaahaaa howl that ended up sounding more like a Ho Ho Ho from Santa. You see, Halloween doesn't come easily to the French. It isn't their holiday. 


For here, it is not tonight that matters but tomorrow, La Toussaint, which is both All Saint's Day... 


...and All Soul's Day. So while there are special services in the Catholic churches, it is also one of the most important days of the year for families to come together. They will honor those that have come before them... 


...and as chrysanthemums are at their fullest, they are the traditional flowers to take to the cemetery, where the plots will be cleaned and prayers said. It is a solemn moment, devoid of the bright vivacity of Dia de los Muertos. Over the past few days, I have seen the streets fuller than usual with family members walking and whispering, weighed by what is said and unsaid. The sky has been blue with black clouds lowering, giving my stomach a bit of a twist save for that early evening when I went to the Arena with Ben to watch the full moon rise and rise until my fingers were numb with the cold. I always feel something unnameable during this time, whether it is the ancestors passing down or just a sense of collective reflection, I don't know.





Well, it looks as if I spoke too soon as my post was to end there. But amidst my concentrated typing, click click click, the burrr of our buzzer gave me a start and produced a sharp bark from Ben. I discerned giggles of anticipation in the street. Luckily, Remi and I had just returned from the grocery store, where at the last moment, I had grabbed a package of a certain American candy bar, something in me hoping..."just in case." You see, Halloween has always been one of my very favorite holidays, one where anyone and everyone is entirely encouraged to think outside the box, to be creative to let their freak flag fly.


I must say I was underwhelmed with the costume effort. Some plastic capes, an ersatz wig--but was that ever the point? And no, it is not their holiday but perhaps they are trying to make it so. For one of the polite little witches promptly handed me an envelope while I was giving out the goods. "C'est pour vous," she said simply. And then they were gone. 


Happy Halloween to those of you that are celebrating. And more importantly, continued good wishes of strength and support to all that have been touched by Hurricane Sandy's passing. Thank you so very much to those that reassured me of your well-being during the past 24 hours, it is much appreciated. 


38 comments:

  1. ah Heather you win the spooky picture routine..hehehe...
    you must forgive the costumes it is a recently adopted gig
    on that side of the pond...when we were there in 1998...nothing..
    sort of a relief after years of costumes for six darlings!
    hugs h

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    1. Six?! Six!! I had to read that twice!!! Whew!!!

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  2. Hello Heather:
    There most certainly is, as you say here, a very special atmosphere in the air at this time of year. It seems as if one is at the crossroads of looking back at a year spent whilst waiting for the birth of a new year yet to come. All around appears to be still and holding its breath in a subdued reverence.

    Here in Hungary, the 'Day of the Dead' is very much taken to heart and cemeteries the length and breadth of the country are lit with thousands of candles and adorned with sheaves of flowers. It is a very special sight and one that we hold dear in our own hearts and minds.

    Your Halloween visit seems to have been a highly civilised affair but, perhaps, a poignant reminder of your home country at a time when so many are suffering such distress. We too reach out with our prayers to those who are frightened and in difficulty.

    As this IS your holiday, dearest Heather, may all your tricks be treats this Halloween!

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    1. I had the biggest treat today--a complete surprise--I'll tell you about it soon. I am set for treats for the rest of the year! :)

      And I have thought a few times today about the image of the cemeteries lit with candles. So very beautiful and moving, to offer light for the souls to find their way home...

      Wishing you both lots of warmth and fine company during this pivotal period of the year. I know you will not go wanting...
      Gros bisous,
      H

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  3. The envelope is written in English? Yet the little witch spoke French? I am bewildered and intrigued.

    It's a very different atmosphere in Australia, where for us Halloween falls in the warmth of mid spring, and there is truly much more excitement about horses and the Cup than anything else - that and the sense of anticipation which comes from summer being tantalising near, and the long Christmas summer holidays not so very far away.

    Increasingly, we get many sweet little children all dressed up and out and about to trick or treat. John did wonder what on earth they would do if anybody ever said "trick". It's no place for the adolescents - much too cool for such dress ups. So here, far from being mystic and a time of reflection, it is much more a sense of the beginning.

    Isn't it interesting how the weather affects our customs and mood so? xx

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    1. Oh how I have learned to see the same experience on the other side of the world through your eyes and perspective! It is amazing really. For once a truly "Happy" Halloween! Who could have guessed?

      John's thought made me laugh for my bunch were the same. And yes, written in English and spoken in French--either the envelope was prepared as part of an English class project or that is an Anglophonism here--I can't imagine anyone saying: "joyeuse Halloween"--for as I wrote, it is not the most joyful of weekends...
      xo!

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  4. What was in the envelope? How adorable!

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    1. A piece of light blue paper with "Happy Halloween" written in the same fancy script in yellow--very much to the point, non?

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  5. You have me dreaming of Arles again with these images! It must be a difficult time with your friends and family enduring the hurricane and storms in the USA. My thoughts are with you as well as with those who have been effected by this natural disaster. Gross bisous.

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    1. Thank you so very much Elizabeth. My plus proches are all in Michigan now and it seems like everyone else is fine!

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  6. Lovely post, and spooky pictures, Heather. Yes, we are getting ready to celebrate here in Seattle. My American-born child will go out and walk around the neighborhood with his friends tonight. He loves "Ah-Ah" Halloween! We will have a special thought for the poor New Jersey kids who will have to wait until Monday to go trick or treating - Governor's orders! - As for your French ghosts and witches, I enjoyed their little note. I found this article in the Huff Post today. They do a pretty good job at analyzing why Halloween did not really "take" in France... Happy reading! Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)
    http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/2012/10/30/halloween-raisons-declin-commercial-fete-france_n_2044272.html

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    1. Oooh, thanks for that, I am off to read it now!

      And I loved the Ah, Ah part--although it made me think that the poor ghost was about to sneeze! ;)

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  7. Heather, I love hearing your take on the transition from October to November on your side of the world. Your photos send an ethereal, spooky, solemn vibe that I can feel all the way in gray, rainy Seattle. And I love the little witch's offering. I like the thought of this time of year being a time for family and not just sugar consumption! Here, the ghost and goblins will take to the streets somewhere around 3:30, starting at the little string of businesses in my neighborhood. Later, we'll all gather at a nearby friends for pumpkin soup and wine. Mr. H and I will take on the door answering and candy dispensing so that they can take their kids out for tricks and treats - many homes in this neighborhood will fill an adult's glass with wine while giving kids candy. So sugar and family and friends - and home by 9pm with very little spooking. Happy Halloween to you, my friend! XO

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    1. Jeanne, I loved your description!! And only on the West Coast would the adults get such a treat--and I bet it isn't Bag in Box or TJ's Best either! ;) I love that you help out your friends, they must appreciate it so much, as do their kids!

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  8. Halloween is not our holiday either. It is starting to catch on, but only just. As you say, tomorrow is the most important day - All Saints and All Souls. Dear Heather, I was immensely touched by your latest comment on my blog. That I am an inspiration to you goes beyond my wildest expectations. That you include me with Suze as an inspiration, is a great honour for me. I wanted to let you know that, likewise, you and Suze always strike a chord with your beautiful words and I love visiting both of you. Though many miles separate us I do think that, sometimes, our collective energies meet somewhere - am not sure where. Perhaps ... en El Inframundo?

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    1. That is absolutely what I was thinking! But I think that I would prefer having a quiet glass of wine or two, relaxing on Malte. ;) What is certain is that we three, while each unique, have some serious overlaps in our characters...

      And I really meant what I wrote Loree--I love the way you write and how you see. There is never ever anything stilted or forced in it, which leaves me thinking that I know you! Please keep going...you have so much to offer all of us.

      Bisous,
      H

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  9. We will welcome the little ones with sweet treats tonight, trying to thrill them just enough with our costumes, jack-o-lanterns and creepy sounds (although they'll know who we are when they hear the dogs greeting them). Tomorrow, with your lovely reminder in mind, I will go to polish and put flowers at my parents' memorial. Since I will have to do that alone, I think I will print out your photographs and words to keep me company. Thank you, Leslie in Portland.

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    1. Thinking of you today, Leslie and sending strength your way. I would offer a hug too if I could.

      And I love imagining you and your gang putting on the show for Halloween! I can just picture it...

      *imagine recieving hug here*

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  10. Wonderful photos and beautifully written Heather. I do enjoy your perspective in life. Sounds like a much different experience tfan what we are accustomed to here in the states.

    Tonight will be about the kids, family, a hearty meal, and lots of treats :)

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    1. As I thoroughly enjoyed your charming post about your Halloween party, I know that it must have been wonderful!!!

      Thank you for the kind words too!

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  11. Your photographs perfectly convey the mood of a Halloween evening. Beautiful, yet haunting. Interesting exchange with the little witch. I am sure the children appreciated the Snickers candy; who wouldn't? I trust Ben wasn't too badly frightened by the little spookers. Goodbye beautiful October; welcome November, the month of my favorite holiday!

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    1. No, Ben came with me to the door, wagging his tail all the time! You know how our Goldens are. :)

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  12. Waiting now for those munchkins...........!Rain any moment so it willnot be the HALLOWEEN we hoped for!Your photos are OUTSTANDING!XXX

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    1. Thank you! But how did the evening turn out?

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  13. Happy Halloween Heather!! I have been caught out last year and the year before as we are in a new area and didn't expect kids to come find us!!

    But this year I was prepared - bought some 'Flakes' and 'Cherry Ripe' mini bars and I'm not sure who was more excited - the kids that came knocking or me!!

    Good Trick or Treating!! Cheers!!

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    1. I felt the same! I was smiling ear to ear. Next year, like you, I will correct my error and be better prepared!!!

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  14. Heather, you have a gift for pulling these disparate elements together in such a singular way! I'm trying to put my finger on what it is that happens with your posts and I think it's a little like this. You write these at a certain point in time. You post them. Whenever I come to have a look, it's like they spring to life and are happening 'in real time' for me as I experience them. There is an atemporal quality about your word and image braids, like a swirling hologram that pops to color when I open the music box.

    That is how you are.

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    1. As stunned as I still am by this compliment, several hours later, I am going to turn it right around and shine it back on you for that is certainly how I feel when I read anything by you. I can't wait to feel what it will be like to read an entire novel that way, I know I won't be able to put it down. I'll look forward to telling you so!

      Thank you...thank you.

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  15. Heather, like everything "transplanted", who knows this may flowered into a beautiful hybrid, with that unique France flavor we all love. The envelope is pretty intriguing. Inquiring mind, you know...:) "Fous le camp", does that mean "get out of here" or "leave"? My France is so basic, it's sad..:) At 9:00 pm last night, the 5 bags of leftover M&Ms, Snickers, Butterfingers, Nerds, Almond Joys were left on the doorsteps with a note. "Take as much as you want". This morning the doorsteps were all cleared not even a plastic bag in sight. Do France kids eat this type of candies? What do they get when trick or treating? Another inquiring mind question for you...:) Happy Late Halloween!

    Amelia


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    1. Oh, I hope whoever scooped up those candies appreciated them! How generous of you and how unsurprising that is to me.

      As for your questions, I think that "Fous le camp" can mean either depending who is saying it and how--it certainly isn't a polite thing to say, either. And I have no idea what the kids were given at other homes but they did seem rather blown away by my full-size Snickers bars!! I know, NOT a good American influence but it was Haaaallloooweeeennn! :)

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  16. Day of the Dead... You certainly captured it... And oh, these moody and exquisite images...

    As for the day after Halloween, thank goodness I didn't buy all the candies I love most (and find irresistible)...

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    1. Thank you but I can't take any credit--it honestly has been that spooky here!!

      And I have to admit that I was initially on the lookout for Reese's peanut butter cups...as I really doubted anyone would stop by...

      Now you have peaked my curiosity...what is your favorite I wonder?

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  17. Loved the photos and your description of Halloween there. You captured the feeling of eerie most certainly. I noticed several candy shops in Venice had decorated their windows with Halloween items and wondered if that was for the benefit of tourists or if somewhere on the 31st there would be a little goblin and ghoul lurking in the shadows along those dark canals seeking treats and threatening tricks. . .
    xo
    j

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  18. Oh, Heather, that little envelope with the hand-drawn ghosts is adorable! And the "Happy Halloween" in French school-kid handwriting -- too much cuteness!

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    1. No Ann Mah, YOU were too much cuteness when you were 5 in your Holly Hobby outfit!!

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  19. Heather you have summed up Halloween and La Toussaint beautifully, I never really got the trick or treat thing as it was not really around in the UK when I was young instead we had something called 'Mischief Night' which we celebrated on November 4th the night before Guy Fawkes night.

    A few years ago some friends organised a Guy Fawkes night and invited all the local French to come along, they were also instructed to make a Guy for the bonfire and we had a best Guy competition, the local French really went to town and some of the Guys were works of art, they were a bit perplexed at first when they realised the Guys were really going to be burnt! But they soon got into the spirit especially when they learnt the history of the custom! They loved it! Asked if we could do it every year. I think Guy Fawkes night captured the revolutionary spirit of the French perfectly.

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    1. That completely makes sense to me too! Although I shudder to think what would happen here if we did have a Guy Fawkes type of night in France--they might get carried away and really start a revolution!! :O

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  20. Your photos are delightfully creepy!
    Not a single trick-or-treater around these parts, but in fairness, it rained buckets all day, so I'm giving Les Villagers a pass on this year, but next year, they better bring it!

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