Sunday 1 November 2009

The Day of the Dead

Although it is true that some of the people who live around here don’t need to dress up to look like witches or hobgoblins, The French are not over indulgent when it comes to Halloween.

The main reason for this is that they celebrate today; the first of November by buying big bunches of Chrysanthemums and visiting their relatives in the cemetery.

Try and find a pumpkin big enough to carve a face into on October 30th and you will have a challenge, try and NOT buy a bunch of Chrysanthemums and you will fail.

I made the mistake when I first came to France; I saw all these beautiful flowers at the tail end of an Indian summer and bought some for the terrace.


And the French will tell you if you do something wrong, unless it’s grammatical in which case they are annoyingly silent.

Like the witch I bumped into at the market today. I foolishly thought that the crate of tasty apples on the fruit sellers stall were for sale and I started to finger them lovingly, even moving one or two towards my wicker weighing-basket.

She ejected a loud “Non” and proceeded to tell me how impolite the English are.

I told her how racist she is.

Talking of racists I notice that the appeal for blood donors is back in the local town and I am thinking of trying again, just to annoy them. This time I’ll say no when we get to the part about “did you drink any milk”, and add “I ate some chocolate” to see if they claim that Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is carried by chocolate.

Where was I?

Oh, yes.

When I was in Honk Kong, lucky enough to be performing with my partner Alex – who finally gets his first mention in this blog – at the Fringe Festival, we needed something to give as a present/reward to a child that would be involved in a moment of onstage public participation.

We wandered off to the local supermarket and were overjoyed to find what looked to us like toy money.

We bought stacks of the stuff.

And we gave it to him, on stage, in front of a packed Chinese audience.

Faux pas!

Money for the dead apparently.

In Mexico today is known as “The Day of the Dead” and I suppose that is how the French see it too.

In the village there will be constant trickle of visits up to the hill where the cemetery lies.

A few years back an American who lived here with his French wife tried to single handily inject the spirit of Halloween into the village. It must have been about 1995.

He converted the cellar of one of the old buildings on the village street into a crypt, set himself up inside looking like something from the-living-dead-creature-from-the-swamp-you-don’t-want-to go-anywhere-near-this and placed a big pile of sweets in striking distance of his bloody and gangrenous right arm.

No one dared go any nearer than the door.

Except Antoine, a remarkable youth known for his advanced reading of political and philosophical tracts, who cleaned up and had a monopoly on all things sugar in the village for the next 12 months.

For a couple of years after the local shopping centres tried to start a campaign of orange and black merchandising but I think it was seen by their clients as messing with tradition.

Faux pas!

So France has returned to Chrysanthemums.

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