Pierre the Pumpkin | Halloween 2017 in Montpellier, France | Day of the Dead

Montpellier, and France in general, doesn’t celebrate Halloween, but I do.

I spoke to soon.

Pleasant surprise, last night on Halloween, October 31st, Montpellier’s historic section was full (as usual), yet with a significant number of people in costumes on the mostly pedestrian narrow streets.

And unlike one random secular holiday, France celebrates the ‘Day of the Dead’ which is for them November 1st, for a full week. A week off from school! What?

the joint team grinder, Marlboro tobacco, lighter and OCB papers

grinder, Marlboro tobacco, lighter and OCB papers

As people do often in Montpellier, and in a lot of French towns, they walk around, hence the word promenade – both describing a verb to walk, and a noun, a central commons. Last night after pulling a costume together, I headed into town. Since I had covered a lot of distance bicycling during the day, I raced to catch the tram passing me as I was heading into town, to get on it with my bike. I was surprised and happy to see a group of three girls in costume getting on the train at the same time as I. They proceeded to take one after another selfie. There was another guy sitting alone with a black lace veil and scary looking eyes, when I could see them. He would reveal fangs every once in a while. His head remained straight ahead, perhaps slightly bent down. Duh, he was probably looking at his cell phone. The phone was the only thing out of place as he walked from the train in his black clad macabre nun costume. The train arrived at the central plaza in town by the historical center, la Comedie. Once I maneuvered my bike off at this stop I saw all sorts of costumes.

It was clear that this is one of those rare French towns that clearly does celebrate Halloween. It helps when 25% of the population are students. Sure, it was a small percentage, but this meant an ever flowing bunch of costumes. As I’ve mentioned, people in the town of Montpellier love to stroll, promenade, and certainly tourists as well. They gather in cafes and bars that spill into the streets.

I saw some really pretty scary, realistic looking wounds. wow! Yet only took a few pictures of costumes. There were a bunch of excellent, graphically real looking facial wounds and some very clever home-made costumes. One woman was a walking laundry basket. The group shot I took was because I walked up to a guy with a large metallic looking thing, asking “what is that?”. “I’m a grinder; explaining that they were the joint roller brigade; consisting of the grinder, OCB rolling paper, a pack of Marlboro and a lighter.

Pierre the Pumpkin Halloween in Montpellier, France 2017, where Halloween isn’t celebrated

Today, November 1st isn’t a holiday for me, but it is for France. I was wondering why the copy shop I went to was closed, looking at the sign and knowing it wasn’t that late, perplexed. As I paused on a tree-lined street with my bicycle closer to the center of town, I randomly asked a strolling couple with their two toddlers, “is today a holiday or something?” gesturing at the barricaded shops. They answered, we don’t speak french, we speak English. “It’s the Day of the Dead.” I mean, I knew the kids have a week off from school, but I wasn’t really sure what specific day this holiday landed on. I said, it would be crazy to think of people getting a week off from school for Halloween. I laughed. He’s a diplomat, originally from Flemish Belgium and she’s Turkish. They lingered. We talked for a while. I said I hadn’t remembered Day of the Dead being celebrated in Germany, mentioning I lived in Berlin, knowing they have a large Turkish population. She quickly retorted that Berlin has the largest Turkish population outside of Istanbul. He said “sure, it wouldn’t be celebrated in Germany, they’re Protestant”. Its roots are in the Catholic origins of celebrating ancestors. Their kids speak Flemish (Dutch), Turkish, English and are learning French. The woman’s Turkish name means ‘tree with no roots’. I said, but all trees have roots, and she said exactly. I said, oh, it’s a metaphor. She added that she has always embraced rootlessness, which is why when they met and he was still studying, he decided to become a diplomat so that they could live a lifestyle of travel. They’d lived in Belgrade, Serbia.

The plaza was full of street performers and crowds around them. In this case several groups of break dancing guys with their loud sound system. Each capitalizing on the November 1st holiday, Day of the Dead. I searched the internet and saw November 2nd as the official Day of the Dead, hey, that’s my mother’s birthday; November 2nd. As I continued searching, it turns out that Day of the Dead actually starts on the 31st of October and goes through November 2nd, depending on what culture you participate in and how it’s celebrated. It’s officially on November 1st in France, called La Toussaint, All Saints Day. I found this CBS link showing photographs of this celebration throughout the world, in one form or another. It for the most part is about honoring ancestors. In fact, I hadn’t realized it was such a prominent holiday in Europe. I knew it was a thing in Mexico, but I never knew to what extent. Here’s a good article about its Mexican roots.

paper cut out graffiti

paper cut out graffiti

carol in her halloween costume 2017 to promenade along the montpellier streets

carol in her halloween costume 2017 to promenade along the montpellier streets

decided to grab a pumpkin from the grocery store today

roasted pumpkin seeds

I sure am fond of Pierre

His shape made me spontaneously draw him out.

hIs hat is very shiftable!

Pierre with an Asian cut

This was the spontaneous costume this past saturday

back in March in Santa Fe

About carolkeiter
Aspiring writer, artist, musician and composer who was born and raised in the United States and has resided in several European countries. Communication is my forte; both through using various tools and in approaching people of divers backgrounds to gather information. Speak conversational - advanced intermediate - French, German and Spanish. Love interacting with people in cultural centers as much as going to remote places to learn more about the different creatures that share our planet. Love of the outdoors and of a variety of outdoor sports. Driven to learn and expand my own consciousness and understanding through curiosity and love of life. Creative skills merge with analytical ones, leading to an interest in a myriad of topics; ranging from politics, economics, science to environmental. Motivated to use my art, music and writing to support and educate people towards humane practices that support and respect all of life, including practices supporting a healthy planet.

One Response to Pierre the Pumpkin | Halloween 2017 in Montpellier, France | Day of the Dead

  1. Loren Booda says:

    Soon Pierre the Pumpkin will be not man of 1000 faces, just Pie to feed faces! My best dinner ever was in the Mistral region, but your dish, Carol, requires expert cutting — mind the squash!

    Share so many healthy pumpkins with so many destitute; there’s probably a pumpkin per poor person left over from All Hallow’s Eve — at least we could celebrate by sharing more pie. The unwise man’s carnal food chain has got most of us shackled.

    We have to look out like we see Pierre, an opportunity to feed the least sufficiently with plant stuff. Every day of the year is a holiday; what more Holy than to dine everyday with all creatures, not on them.

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