When I was a little kid, in the late great 1960s, in the late great U.S. of A., Halloween was my favorite holiday other than Christmas. Not only did we get to dress up in ridiculous outfits, wearing eye makeup to be Cleopatra or Pocohontas, or smudging our faces with burnt cork and wearing our fathers' flannel shirts to look like sad "hobos," but we got to run up and down the entire street late at night with our friends.
We carried old pillowcases or plastic pumpkins to collect the dozens of candy bars, Pez, wax lips, candy corn and other sugar bombs that we would extort from our friendly neighbors, calling out "Trick or Treat!" at their doorsteps while they smiled and laughed at our costumes.
The whole neighborhood was wise to the game, with almost every house featuring multiple jack-o-lanterns - huge fresh pumpkins cleaned and gutted of their seeds and pulp that held flickering candles that burned black carbon soot inside the orange globes.
The "bad kids" and malcontent teens might toilet paper the trees outside an enemy's house, or smash raw eggs on cars and in the streets. Sometimes shaving cream or whipped cream would be sprayed directly on a rival. If these signs of nascent criminality were somewhat disturbing to witness, they were equally exciting to talk about afterwards with our friends.
Once every likely home had been tapped for its sugary bribes, we would collapse back in our own living rooms and spill the treasures out on the floor, separating the best chocolates from the cheaper penny candies, glorying like pirates over our loot.
Wikipedia has a fascinating article about the history of "Trick or Treating" as it has developed in different cultures. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trick-or-treating
(Photo taken in Brittany by French Today)
In Lonlay l'Abbaye this year, we saw a few family groups with small goblins and witches who seemed to be going to friends' houses, so perhaps the tradition will continue to spread.
For the most part though, the Toussaint holiday is more akin to Thanksgiving in its focus on family. Schools are closed for two weeks, and most people strive to go back to their home cities or villages for a few days during that time to gather with their extended families. They visit the cemeteries on November 1, laying pots of chrysanthemums on the graves of their loved ones.
When a time change overnight on October 30 caused the next day (Halloween) to end in early darkness, my Irish blood felt skittish about the thin veil this time of year between the living and the dead.
A group of scruffy backpackers and other strangers appeared to be camping out that weekend under the darkened arches of the abbey. It startled me to see figures walking in the gloom across the village green and down the narrow streets when I walked our dog.
I had ordered ten big plastic storage boxes for Lonlay, but somehow the order was cut in two and one set of boxes went to our default address in Paris! I got a call on the Saturday from the delivery guy who was standing outside our building there. Had to tell him to take those boxes back. No time to order more while we were in Lonlay, because Monday the 1st was a holiday, and there was no option for expedited shipping. Ok, next time...
One storage box was broken in the set we received. I braved calling Amazon.fr. Got someone to speak to me in English. Did not expect much, but they gave me a refund of nearly half the price of the full set!
In our bedroom hangs the "bulb of shame." We already have recessed lights in most of the rooms, but I imagined that all we would need in the bedroom was a "chandelier," as I envisioned several smaller lamps on chests and nightstands that would supply ample additional lighting. Well, naturally, I discovered that the central position I had chosen for said chandelier was going to hit everyone in the head. Nor is the ceiling high enough to accommodate a classic chandelier. So the bulb of shame hangs there to remind me.
Most likely we will install a light fixture here that will fit closer to the ceiling to remedy that problem. Our leading contender at the moment is a classic 20th century art deco style. www.luminaire.fr/plafonnier-antique-caecilia-42-cm.html
Moving on to the attic...
We like visiting the house and making future plans for all the rooms, but who can stay indoors for long when the crisp outdoors beckons, and Normandy puts on all of its reds and gold and rust colors for us to admire?
icy air that seizes my throat as I marvel at early morning lawns covered in frost, sparkling like white sugar in the sun,
an older man in his reflective vest who kindly warns us of a big intersection at the top of a hill,
little urchins at the preschool being reminded over and over that they are not to eat "that,"
the mayor getting his coffee and making his appointed rounds,
the scent of fresh breads at the boulangerie,
the friendly dog that lives at the supermarket,
the sound of rushing water under the bridges,
and the splendid midnight show of stars, majestic against black sky over the village green.
You'll have to take my word for some of it.
November in Lonlay l'Abbaye, in the time of All Saints.