Halloween in France – Vocabulary & Traditions & Video 🎃

Author: Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Although we don’t typically celebrate Halloween in France, Halloween is getting more and more popular among children and young adults.

So if they do, how do French people celebrate Halloween in France? And what’s the French Halloween vocabulary? How do you say trick or treat in French? I’ll answer all these questions in this article.

How do you say “Trick or Treat” in French?

Well… you don’t!

The whole point being to have French kids use a few English words… But a good translation would be in French:

  • “des bonbons ou un sort” (candies or a spell),
  • “bêtises ou friandises” (mischiefs or sweets).

I’ve heard this is what they mostly use in French speaking Canada. Now let’s see how to talk about Halloween in French.

50 Halloween French Terms – French Halloween Vocabulary

Here are a few Halloween related French words.

  1. La Toussaint – All Saint Day
  2. Le trente et un octobre – 31st of October – here is my free lesson on how to say the date in French.
  3. Halloween – halloween (say it the French way “a lo ween” – note, no article)
  4. Bonne fête de Halloween – Happy Halloween
  5. Friandises ou bêtises/ Des bonbons ou un sort – treat or trick
  6. Un déguisement, un costume – a costume
  7. Un fantôme – a ghost
  8. Un vampire – a vampire
  9. Une sorcière – a witch
  10. Une princesse – a princess
  11. Un squelette – skeleton
  12. Un épouvantail – a scarecrow
  13. Un diable – a devil
  14. Une momie – a mummy
  15. Un monstre – a monster
  16. Une chauve-souris – a bat
  17. Une araignée – a spider
  18. Une toile d’araignée – spider web
  19. Un chat noir – a black cat
  20. Un potiron, une citrouille – a pumpkin
  21. Une bougie – a candle
  22. Des bonbons – candies
  23. Une maison hantée – a haunted house
  24. Un cimetière – a cemetery
  25. une fée – a fairy
  26. un pirate – a pirate
  27. un homme des cavernes – a caveman
  28. un démon – a demon
  29. une goule – a goul
  30. un zombie – a zombie
  31. un extraterrestre – an alien
  32. Un loup-garou – a werewolf
  33. le sang – the blood
  34. se maquiller – to wear makeup – see my article about French reflexive verbs
  35. le maquillage – the makeup
  36. une perruque – a wig
  37. un masque – a mask
  38. une cicatrice – a scar
  39. les canines de vampire – the vampire fangs
  40. Se déguiser (en) – to wear a costume, to dress-up as
  41. Comment allez-vous vous déguisez ? How are you going to dress (using vous and formal construction)
  42. Tu te déguises en quoi pour Halloween cette année ? How are you dressing as for Halloween this year? (using tu and informal construction)
  43. Je me déguise en sorcière – I am wearing a witch costume, I am dressing-up as a witch
  44. Sculpter une citrouille – to carve a pumpkin
  45. Frapper à la porte – to knock on the door
  46. Sonner à la sonnette – to ring the bell
  47. Aller de maison en maison – to go from house to house
  48. Faire peur à quelqu’un – to scare someone
  49. Avoir peur – to be scared
  50. Donner des bonbons – to give candies

You may also be interested in my free lesson about the French fear vocabulary.

And now let’s tackle THE question: is Halloween celebrated in France?

Do You Celebrate Halloween in France?

In the 1990s, young French hipsters started to have costume parties for Halloween, and some bars and restaurants took up the trend as well… To this day however, Halloween is still mostly a commercial celebration, and something for kids… and English teachers!

Halloween in France – a Good Commercial Opportunity

Halloween is not a typical French holiday but stores try to take advantage of it, and it’s not unusual to find a “carve your Halloween pumpkin (“une citrouille” or “un potiron”) display at your local grocery store.

Well, pumpkins don’t sell like hotcakes in France, so I guess everything is good to try to sell them… But I don’t know that French people are massively carving pumpkins or doing anything special for Halloween…

photo (26)
This is the Halloween display at our local Carrefour supermarket

Halloween is a fun way to Motivate French Kids to Practice English

With English being studied in elementary school, kids usually know about Halloween. There are many fun activities that can be done on the Halloween theme, and candies are sufficient motivation for any kid in the world!

Unfortunately, Halloween is usually during mid-season school break (“les vacances de la Toussaint”), so schools don’t usually organize a trick-or-treating outing.

No Tricks on Halloween in France

Although some neighborhoods are more responsive than others, trick-or-treating is not yet part of the French tradition, and people have mixed reactions to being “disturbed’ at nightfall for candies by kids in costumes.

Note however the “trick” part is out of the question in France… That part of the tradition didn’t make it (yet ?) and French folks have not had the pleasure to receive eggs or toilets paper over their fences, trees, house…

Only Scary Costumes for Halloween in France

French kids don’t seem to be aware that you don’t have to necessarily dress scary for Halloween. No lovely princesses or fairies on Halloween in France. Only ghosts zombies and vampires. Maybe that’s why some French people don’t like it.

The other costumes must be saved for Mardi Gras (which is not really a celebrated anymore in France…)

French people typically love costume parties, they are very popular for New Year’s Eve or birthdays, even among grown-ups.

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Halloween is Still a Foreign Holiday in France

If Halloween is a big hit in larger cities which often organise parades etc… It’s still a “foreign” holiday in smaller countryside villages. Most French people won’t have candies handy, and houses are not usually decorated for Halloween.

We live in a small 8000 inhabitant town called “Paimpol”, in a very quiet residential street. No trick or treaters for us, although Paimpol’s shopkeeper usually organizes something for kids in the town center in the afternoon of Halloween, and local businesses give away candies.

Since kids didn’t come to my house, in 2019, I went to look for them in my neighbourhood. I crossed path with 2 groups of 4 kids. I asked them why they were wearing costumes and, they answer “because of the candies”. When I asked “do you know what day is today”, I got one ” because it’s Halloween” out of the 8 kids…

When I asked them if they knew how to say “trick or treat” in English or French… they didn’t know nor the words, nor the tradition… Just that they were likely to get candies today!

The 2019 parade in the middle of town was a big hit though. It was held from 4 to 5 PM, and many kids and parents showed up. The shops were not particularly decorated… And the costumes were more or less creative: sometimes just a mask, hat or wig thrown over regular clothings.

Halloween is Getting mix Reactions From French Folks

In the small countryside village where my parents live, the school teacher is serious about teaching English, and loves the opportunity Halloween provides to motivate kids.

All the kids meet up at the school and then go trick-or treating, and guess what? My parent’s house is right in front of the school. It’s the one house all the kids are sure to hit!!!

My Mom (75 years old) hates it. My Dad (80 years young) loves it :-)

Halloween has the Same Ideas as the French Catholic Holiday “La Toussaint”

It’s too bad though, because on November 1st is the Catholic Holiday of “la Toussaint” (All Saints Day), when French people traditionally visit cemeteries, freshen up the tomb displays, bringing colourful mums (“des chrysanthèmes” chrysanthemums, aka mums)… symbol of death, never to be given as a bouquet/present… that would be a big faux-pas !!) and pray to their dead and their favorite saints.

La Toussaint, November 1st is a holiday in France: everything is closed. It’s in the middle of the school vacation “les vacances de la Toussaint” so kids are around. Families often gather together for a meal, and bring flowers to the cemetery (le cimetière).

If you know French people who suffered the loss of a love one, this is a good time to send your sympathy in French.

These are the same ideas that are at the very heart of Halloween. I feel Halloween could be a great way to get younger people to carry on ancient French traditions that are getting forgotten, while also integrating a fun American celebration.

French Halloween Video

In 2019, I went in the streets of Paimpol to so you could see a bit the “ambiance” of Halloween in my small countryside town of Brittany.

It was raining that day, pretty hard. And the shopkeepers organisation had decided to celebrate Halloween on October 30th? Why??? I’m not sure: probably because it was on a Wednesday when kids have no school (but the shopkeepers had forgotten that it was during the French school holidays anyway… Typical French LOL).

You may turn on/off French/English subtitles by playing with the CC option located to the bottom right of the video.

I hope you enjoyed my video.

What about you? Are you celebrating Halloween this year? What will your Halloween costume be? Do you celebrate Halloween in your country – if not, any other celebration about death?

Happy Halloween! Bonne fête de Halloween !

Author: Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Born and raised in Paris, I have been teaching today's French to adults for 25+ years in the US and France. Based on my students' goals and needs, I've created unique downloadable French audiobooks focussing on French like it's spoken today, for all levels. Come to Paimpol and enjoy an exclusive French immersion homestay with me in Brittany.

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