Halloween and All Saints Day

Halloween is the contraction of “All Hallows Eve” the tradition originates from Samhains Day. He was born in Ireland and the legend states that he was nicknamed Jack O’Lantern. He was a drunkard who would stagger around with his lantern in his hand and who cheated the devil twice. After his death, his soul could not enter Heaven or Hell, but he convinced the Devil to give him a fire ember which he put into a hollowed out turnip to provide light for himself in his everlasting wanderings. When the potato famine struck, the Irish people who immigrated to the USA took many myths and legends with them, and so the tradition of Halloween began.


Halloween Shop DisplayOne of my favourite shops in Sarlat, I love the pumpkin.


Haloween PumpkinPaul scooped out the pulp so that I could make pumpkin, ginger and carrot soup and then I carved the face, basic I know but I am trying.
Practice is needed I think!


HalloeenThe pumpkin in the window, illuminated with a cherry scented candle inside, it gave the pumpkin a strange red tint but it smelt gorgeous.

We had more children at our door this year, three groups, the costumes were brilliant and they all came with bags for the sweets. Our kitten Cleo was not too happy, she took one look at the costumes and ran up the stairs to peep around the corner at the children.

Many Catholics throughout France honour their Saints, Martyrs and deceased loved ones on the 1st November, known as ‘All Saints Day’ or ‘All Hallows’, called ‘La Toussaint’ in France. Our village is no exception, so many people attended the church service this morning, after which they took flowers to the cemetery. It is customary for people to place flowers, gifts and candles onto the tombs and graves of their loved ones. La Toussaint is a National Holiday where administrative offices, shops, restaurants, banks etc. are closed so that families can honour this day.


Chrysanthemums are known as the flower for the deadChrysanthemums were in every market to buy. In France and Italy, Chrysanthemums are known as the flower for the dead.


It was Pope Gregory IV who in 835 ordered all of the Christians to celebrate Toussaint. The date and custom actually derives from the start of the potato harvest when children would join with their families to bring in the harvest of potatoes in early November.



8th to 11th November : Film Festival in Sarlat.
11th November : Armistice Day.
3rd to 12th December: Truffle Market Sarlat.



7 thoughts on “Halloween and All Saints Day

  1. Dear Chris, I must say that I was very surprised and shocked to read your blog on Halloween and its origins, particularly the legend of Jack O’Lantern who you describe as an Irish drunkard who staggered around…….I wonder where you found your information as it is badly misinformed.

    I’m sure Jack O’Lantern sounds like a very jolly fellow, but he is not Irish I’m afraid nor associated with the origins of Halloween.

    If you search online, you will find that “Jack O’Lantern” first originated in East of England in the 1660’s to describe a hallowed out vegetable that was turned into a lantern.

    Proud to be Irish and well read on our mythology I am sure you will appreciate a more accurate account of the origins of Halloween which go back over 2,500 years in Ireland.

    While the many millions of people celebrate Halloween few will be aware that Halloween first originated in Ireland over 2,500 years ago on the eve of the 1st night of the 11th month, ie 31st October, known in ancient Celtic lore as the Samhain (Samain) festival. In Celtic Ireland about 2,000 years ago, Samhain was the division of the year between the lighter half (summer) and the darker half (winter). At Samhain the division between this world and the otherworld was at its thinnest, allowing spirits to pass through. (While it is thought of as a Celtic tradition, it is thought that at several sites up to 5,000 years old that the Samhain was celebrated, well before the Celts arrived 2,500 years ago)

    The family’s ancestors were honoured and invited home whilst harmful spirits were warded off. People wore costumes and masks to disguise themselves as harmful spirits and thus avoid harm. Bonfires and food played a large part in the festivities. The bones of slaughtered livestock were cast into a communal fire, household fires were extinguished and started again from the bonfire. Food was prepared for the living and the dead, food for the ancestors who were in no position it eat it, was ritually shared with the less well off.

    Christianity incorporated the honouring of the dead into the Christian calendar with All Saints (All Hallows) on November 1st, followed by All Souls on November 2nd.

    The Irish emigrated to America in great numbers during the 19th century especially around the time of famine in Ireland during the 1840’s. The Irish carried their Halloween traditions to America, where today it is one of the major holidays of the year. Through time, other traditions have blended into Halloween, for example the American harvest time tradition of carving pumpkins.

    I have loved your blog on life in France, it’s a pity to see it so out of touch.

    Sources various including: http://www.newgrange.com/samhain.htm

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