It’s Halloween, and that means it’s time for the traditional Halloween story – the time the twins killed Halloween in our village. We live in France, a country that does not traditionally celebrate Halloween. After years of snobbing it (look at those fools over the other side of the Atlantic – silly costumes costing them a fortune, candy rotting their teeth, thugs out on the streets at night getting away with pelting car with shaving cream and eggs) – the French (OK, not all of them, and I have no idea, really whose idea is was to instate Halloween in France) decided to play too.
The first year they plugged Halloween it was a bust. Whole pumpkins sat in bins untouched in grocery stores (in France, they are sold in the veggie section cut into neat slices for soups and such. Whole pumpkins are never seen in stores…). The next year, someone had the brilliant idea to sell Halloween as a Celtic holiday. The French, you see, are Celts. This worked a charm. Suddenly, every village was organizing a Halloween party. Flyers were sent to each resident extolling the virtues of this originally Celtic fête that had been hijacked by the US and was now coming back to where it began. Instant success. Pumpkins sold out overnight, the candy section in the stores was emptied, and kids spent hours and loads of money on costumes. It seemed a sure success. Even in our village. They didn’t count on the twins.
My sons are adorable. They are well behaved and kind hearted. They work hard. They are fun. They also have far, far too much imagination and I admit, I am not as strict as I should be. Halloween was coming. Every year before that, I had organized a party at my house and invited my kids’ freinds to come in costume, bob for apples, get candy, watch a scary movie, and tell scary tales. I’d been doing this since we came to France, and my kids loved it. This year, however, it was a village fête, and they were plainly overexcited about it.
The letter in the mailbox was short and clear: Happy Halloween! To celebrate, we invite you to dress up and meet at the village square at 7 pm! Then we will go on a tour of the village trick or treating. Residents: please have candy or fruit treats available for children coming to your house.
I was helping Julia (aged 7 at this time) get her costume ready, while she made costumes for the dogs. Auguste our dachshund was going as a centipede. Rusty was to be bride of Frankenstein complete with veil and white dress. Julia was a little witch and her friend was going to be a zombie, which meant lots of makeup. I was too busy to note that the boys (they had invited two of their friends, (whose names shall be withheld as one is now an international lawyer and the other is an officer in the gendarmerie) and all four had disguised themselves in army gear. I glanced at them and said “GI Joes?”
“No, terrorists”, they informed me. It still didn’t really sink in. Terrorist paranoia had yet to haunt us – they were few and far between – it was not yet a social phenomena, and so I shrugged and went back to look for my white lipstick pencil. When Julia, her friend, and the dogs were ready, we set out to the village green where a crowd of little ghosts, goblins, fairy princesses and a Batman were running around shrieking. Parents stood to the side, holding wicker baskets or shopping bags (for the candy). At 7 pm the mayor came and made a little speech about how he hoped Halloween would become a fun tradition in the village. And we set off. I looked around but didn’t see the twins. It should have been a warning.
At the first house, the woman cooed over the costumes, then said she’d given all her candy away already. Luckily she had some mints and chocolates left over from a dinner party. She filled the bags with what she had and waved us on. The rest of the evening was pretty much the same. Bemused residents opened the doors, explained they’d already been visited by trick or treaters, and they filled the baskets with things left over, like chips, apples, grapes, and cocktail nuts. Who had the Other trick or treaters been? An idea was forming in my head, but I was loathe to say anything. The evening wore on, and things got worse. Several houses didn’t open their doors when we knocked, and one man told us to get lost, he’d had enough of Halloween! Uh oh. I spied plastic beebees on the ground, presumably shot from a terrorist’s beebee gun. The ninja/GI Joe/terrorists also had squirt guns, and there were splashes of water everywhere. Oh dear.
My suspicions were confirmed when I got back to the house, and saw my sons and their freinds with a veritable arsenal of candy. They had bags full. The residents, unfamiliar with Halloween, had given all their candy away to the first group of tricksters – my sons et al., – and some had even given money! The boys had rushed around the village, shooting beebees and squirting their squirt guns at unsuspecting geese, trees and gates, begging for candy, and generally being annoying and disruptive. The next day a hasty meeting was held. Halloween was cancelled for next year, and the year after. It was not “compatible” with the “ésprit de village”, stated the mayor without a shred of regret in his voice. Of course, everyone knew whose fault it was- but no one was angry about it. There was a collective Gallic shrug, a “c’est la vie”, and Halloween was shelved and never showed its face in our village again – for as long as we lived there at any rate.
Now we live in the city, and kids come to our door to trick or treat, so I always have candy on hand for them. My sons are grown up now, and I am looking forward to when they have kids too, so I can tell them about the time their fathers killed Halloween.