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Oct 15

Celebrating Halloween in France

Ghosts’n’Goblins: The Origins of Halloween

Soon, children in many countries will be donning their déguisements (costumes) and at crépuscule (dusk) will be headed out the door to make the rounds of their neighborhood to celebrate Halloween.

Mais d’où vient cette tradition (But where does this tradition come from)? What exactly is Halloween? And does France even celebrate it?

Halloween in France

 Image by Pedro Ferreira on Flickr

Halloween, also called Hallows’ Eve, has roots in l’histoire ancienne (ancient history). It can trace its lineage back to the Celtic calendar festival of Samhain (literally “end of summer” in Celtic) in Ireland and Britain.

November 1 was set apart as the day to commemorate la fin de l’été (the end of summer) and to celebrate les morts (the dead). The emphasis on the supernatural during Samhain gave the festival an aura of peur (fear) during which people made sacrifices to the Celtic gods who played tricks on them. Fires were lit to ward off spirits and disguises were often worn pour se cacher des fantômes (to hide from ghosts).

The Roman festivals of Feralia merged with the rituals of Samhain when the Romans conquered the Celts in the 1st century A.D., thus adding to the mystique and folklore of Halloween.

Six hundred years later, La Toussaint (literally “All Saints’” Day) was promulgated by Pope Boniface IV and was to be celebrated on May 13. Families would gather to pay respects to loved ones they had lost and to honor the saints. Durant le Moyen-Âge (During the Middle Ages) the Catholic Church was the most powerful institution and in the 8th century, Pope Gregory III changed the date of La Toussaint to November 1, possibly to overshadow the pagan holidays. October 31st of every year became a “hallowed evening” and thus the term “Halloween” came into being. Today, November 1st continues to remain un jour férié (public holiday) in France where schools, restaurants, post offices, banks and other businesses are all closed. A similar tradition to La Toussaint takes place au Mexique (in Mexico) between October 31st and November 2nd called Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead) when those belonging to the Catholic faith visit les tombeaux (the graves) of their relatives to pay their respects.

Britain and Ireland continued celebrating Halloween as a secular holiday beyond the Middle Ages. British and Irish immigrants brought Halloween to the United States beginning in the mid-19th century and since then Halloween, much like Noël et Pâques (Christmas and Easter), has slowly morphed into a commercial “holiday” filled with costumes, trick-or-treating and copious amounts of bonbons (candy).

In France, Halloween has garnered little attention and is mostly a pretext for people to dress up and attend costume parties. Absent are the typical American costumes (superheroes) in favor of more macabre disguises (ghosts, zombies, etc.) typically associated with Halloween. Halloween remains an obscure holiday in France but you might find Jack-o’-lanterns and other decorations behind the windows of businesses and homes.

In honour of the holiday, a short 'scary' vocabulary list:

le déguisement, le costume – costume

se déguiser – to disguise oneself, dress up in a costume

une citrouille – pumpkin

la bougie – candle

les bonbons – candy

la peur – fear

avoir peur – to be scared

faire peur à quelqu’un – to scare someone

le sang – blood

les os – bones

le diable – the devil

le fantôme – ghost

l’épouvantail (m) – scarecrow

le sorcier/la sorcière – the sorcerer/the witch

l’araignée (f) – spider

la chauve-souris – bat

Will Halloween ever become a popular tradition in France?

It is doubtful. But the next time someone asks you about Halloween, you can impress them with your knowledge of its origins. If anything, it makes for good conversation.

Happy Halloween!

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Blog submitted by: David at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

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Jun 15

Father's Day in France Celebrations

La Fete Des Pères - In French

La Fete des Pères (Father’s Day) is just around the corner! Unlike la Fete des Mères (Mother’s Day), cette fete (this holiday) doesn’t involve remembering two different dates when you’re from the UK or les États-Unis! In both France & UK and aux USA, la fete falls on the third Sunday of June.

La Fete des Pères is both a new and old holiday. The tradition of having a day of celebration for your father goes back to at least le Moyen Age, but the modern holiday is more of an American export.

In every version of la Fete des Pères throughout history, I imagine it has always been difficult to know what exactly to get un papa (a dad) for leur fete.

Even today it can still be difficult, but fortunately a lot of dad gifts have become standard over the years.

Farther's Day in France

Of course, les papas will be content with a good laugh when they make a corny joke, and in that spirit of les blagues nulles (bad jokes) or dad jokes, stores everywhere stock up with novelty ties, mugs, shirts, and any other dad gift you can think of.

It boils down to finding a million way to say: Le meilleur papa du monde! / The best dad in the world!

Peu importe (no matter) how bad le jeu de mots (play on words), the most important part of la fete des pères is having la famille (the famil) send a loving message:

Papa, je t’aime ! / Dad, I love you!

To get ready for la fete, take a moment to learn how to say some of the gifts un papa would expect on his special day.

Voici un vocabulaire des papas :

Le père – Father

Le papa – Dad, Daddy

Le grand-père – Grandfather

Le papy – Grandpa

Le cadeau – Gift

La cravate – Tie

Le mug – Mug

La grande tasse – Mug

Le T-shirt – T-shirt

Le rasoir – Razor

Le massage – Massage

Les chaussons – Slippers

Les pantoufles – Slippers

La tondeuse – Lawnmower

Le gril – Grill

La casquette – Baseball Cap!

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Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

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Mar 22

Hamburger Vocabulary in French

American Stereotypes and Traditional Cuisine

Living in France as a Brit but especially as un américain (an American) sometimes means hearing the same jokes over and over again. Most of the time it’s all meant in good fun so it never bothers me and sometimes I even learn about les stéréotypes américains (American stereotypes) that I never knew existed!

The most common stéréotype américain that is the end of many jokes for me here en France is that all Americans love les hamburgers (hamburgers).

American Burger

Like with French fries not being from la France, there’s an irony in the stereotypically American food originally being from l’Allemagne (Germany) and not les États-Unis (the United States). Cependant (however), that doesn’t stop the hamburger punch line from being repeated, especially if the subject of traditional cuisine comes up.

Et toi John, tu veux manger un hamburger !

And you John, you want to eat a hamburger!

While it can get old hearing the same joke over and over, it also inspired me to learn des nouveaux mots (new words), because I quickly realised I had no idea to talk about what goes into making un bon hamburger or how to properly explain the difference between le fast-food and a backyard barbecue!

Instead of seeing it as an annoying situation, I prefer to look at it as a way to open up conversations and gain insight into la culture française. It may be awkward, but I understand that mes amis français (my French friends) are looking for a way to include me and I appreciate the effort, even if I don’t laugh at the hamburger jokes.

So I decided to learn how to discuss les ingrédients et les condiments (toppings and condiments) and how exactly I like le steak haché (the patty) cooked! Après tout (after all), even if les hamburgers are not my favourite food, I do enjoy eating them!

Voici un vocabulaire de hamburger

Hamburger – Le hamburger

Fast Food – Le fast-food

Barbecue – Le barbecue

Spatula – La spatule

Bun – Le petit pain

Patty – Le steak haché

Very Rare – Bleu

Rare – Saignant

Medium Rare – À point

Well Done – Bien cuit

Sauce – La sauce

Ketchup – Le ketchup

Mayonnaise – La mayonnaise

Mustard – La moutarde

Relish – Le condiment

Tomato – Le tomate

Lettuce – Le salade

Onion – L’oignon

Pickle – Le cornichon au vinaigre

Grease – La graisse

Fries / Chips – Les frites!

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Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

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Feb 13

Mardi Gras celebrations in France and yummy recipe for Crepes.

Shrove Tuesday in February means that across the UK there will be people practising their pancake tossing ! But let us learn a little of how it is celebrated in France.

Origins of Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras is a well-known event in New Orleans and in Brazil, but why is Mardi Gras celebrated in France?

Mardi Gras has a few different roots, some in Christian culture, and some in pagan culture. These days, Mardi Gras is seen as a Catholic tradition, but what people actually do on this day is quite different to what people do on other Catholic holidays. Like Christmas and Easter, Mardi Gras includes a very large meal and a gathering of friends and family, but neither Christmas nor Easter includes masks, costumes and unlimited dancing and fooling around. For this reason, Mardi Gras can be interpreted as a mix of Catholic and pagan traditions: the holiday is Catholic, and the means of celebrating it stem from local traditions.

As we know the period of Lent is the period leading up to Easter. Since the period of Lent requires Catholics to fast, or to give up certain foods if not fasting, as well as make general resolutions for oneself that require self-discipline, Mardi Gras is said to have been created for one last day of unlimited fun and eating before giving up so much during Lent. Originally, a fattened calf was slaughtered as a Mardi Gras feast; in some cultures, pancakes became a traditional Mardi Gras meal because the milk and butter had to be used up before Lent began, or thrown away.

The name Mardi Gras literally translates to Tuesday Fat (or in English: Fat Tuesday). The name comes from fattening the calf and feasting on it; Tuesday is always the day that precedes the beginning of Lent (which starts on Ash Wednesday).

While the origins of Mardi Gras in France are religious and spiritual, Mardi Gras is mainly celebrated today simply because it is fun. While many Catholics still actively observe Lent and the traditions of not indulging excessively, Mardi Gras is celebrated not only by those Catholics who are going into a period of limited indulgence, but also by the general public.

The biggest Mardi Gras celebrations in France are in Nice and in Paris. However, there are celebrations big and small all over North West France in cities, towns and villages.

So whether you observe it as a religious occasion or an excuse for a party the one thing in common is the delightful taste, when cooked correctly, of the humble Pancake or Crêpe.

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Recipe & instructions for the perfect French crêpe.

A delicious French crêpe is versatile and not only for one day a year, as we all know there is always a crêpe van at a French market and whatever your choice of topping it is a treat worth signing up for.

But a well cooked crêpe at home can add a sophisticated touch to any dinner or desert course. It may look simple, but aspiring cooks are often disappointed that their results don't turn out like the thin, delicate ones found from the van at the market or indulged in at a fancy restaurant. However, don't despair – we have the recipe and method for you to impress even the harshest of critics.

As with many things it is the technique involved that makes the difference !

So how to make the perfect French Crêpe? This crêpe recipe makes a double batch because the perfect number of eggs per batch is 1.5 and leftovers are always nice!

Instructions

Things You will Need:

  • a non-stick crêpe pan or skillet, preferably thick bottomed.
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tsp sugar (if you want a sweet, dessert style French crêpe)
  • 3 eggs
  • butter wrapper
  • large spoon or laddle
  • plate
  • thin spatula
  • eager children, hungry neighbours or friends and family

First beat the three eggs in a small bowl. Then, whisk together the flour, milk, and eggs in a large bowl until you have no lumps. Microwave the butter in a small cup or bowl for about 20 seconds. Add a few spoonfuls of the batter to the melted butter and mix well. Then whisk the mixture into the batter. Tilt the batter against the side of the bowl to make sure all lumps are gone.

The most important step to making a French crêpe is greasing the crêpe pan. Too much butter will cause burning and not enough will cause sticking. Warm the pan slightly on the stove. Using a tiny piece of butter, grease the crêpe pan with the butter wrapper. Push down very hard so that the pan slowly absorbs the butter.

Then, heat the crêpe pan to medium heat. You might need to adjust this down slightly as you cook each French crêpe.

Once the crêpe pan is heated, hold it in your left hand (if you are left handed hold it in your right hand) off the heat. Use a large spoon or laddle to scoop out a few tablespoons of batter and pour it into the middle of the pan. Quickly, but steadily, tilt the pan to swirl the batter and coat the pan as thinly as possible and form the French crêpe.

When the edge starts to firm (don't let it get brown yet), loosen it by sliding a thin spatula underneath and around the edges. Then, here comes the fun part, flip the French crêpe over (check the ceiling height first!). Cook the other side for about 30 seconds and then lift the crêpe pan and flip the crêpe over onto the plate.

Hold the crêpe pan in your left hand (if you're right handed) off the heat for about 20-30 seconds before pouring the next one. This lets the pan cool down enough so that the batter cooks less quickly when it first hits the pan and can spread more thinly.

Bask in the glory of being the best Crêpe maker in the house and try to have some left to enjoy your own perfect French crêpe!

Blog submitted by: David at Cle France.

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Feb 8

Having a Morning in Bed French Style

Having a fat morning? – Sleeping Late In French

Les expressions (expressions, idioms) are fun windows into the culture behind a language.

Things like it’s raining cats and dogs does not make any sense to non-English speakers, but it also helps give English a fun flavour beyond all the grammar. 

Pendant l’hiver (during Winter) it can feel amazing to just sleep in and stay under the blankets. Those days when you can get a few extra hours of sleep, or just a few extra hours in bed, can make the rest of the week feel much better.

One day after a morning in bed, I went out to meet mon ami (my friend). We had a normal start to our conversation, but I was surprised by what he said when I told them I had slept in. 

Cle France Breakfast

Salut ! Ça va ?

Salut ! Ça va et toi ?

Ça va. Tu as fait quelque chose ce matin ?

J’ai resté au lit tout le matin. Je viens de sortir de mon lit !

Aah ! Tu as fait la grasse matinée ! 

 

Hi! How are you?

HI! I’m good and you?

I’m good. Did you do anything this morning?

I stayed in bed all morning. I just got out of bed!

Aah! You had the fat morning! 

 

Confused, I thought maybe la grasse matinée was a type of breakfast and answered accordingly:

 

Non, juste du pain et un café.

D’accord….

Et toi ? Tu as beaucoup mangé ce matin ?

Pas spécialement. Pourquoi ?

J’ai pensé que peut-être tu as eu une grasse matinée. 

 

No, just some bread and a coffee.

Alright…

And you? You ate a lot this morning?

Not especially. Why?

I thought you maybe had a fat morning. 

 

As usual in these situations, mon ami started laughing as they realised le malentendu (the misunderstanding). 

La grasse matinée est une expression ! Ça veut dire que tu as resté au lit tout le matin ! 

Fat morning is an expression! It means you stayed in bed all morning! 

It’s always slightly embarrassing when I learn new words and new idioms by making mistakes, but it definitely makes it harder to forgot them!

When using this expression it’s important to not think in English and remember that’s it’s faire la grasse matinée and not faire une grasse matinée.

Le terme (the term) grasse matinée can be found in the 16th century expression dormir la grasse matinée (to sleep the fat morning), while faire la grasse matinée isn’t attributed until the 20th century. The later terme is what’s used today dans les pays francophones (in French speaking countries) and is the one to use if you want to say to sleep in or to sleep late.

Why the adjective gras (fat) is used has two possible explanations:

Gras comes from le latin crassus, and in latin means épais (thick) rather than gras. The idea is that a fat morning is thicker or longer than other mornings.

Gras brings up thoughts of la paresse (laziness) and the soft, squishy feeling of lying in bed all morning.

It may be hard to find the time to enjoy la grasse matinée, but during these cold winter months, I definitely look forward to bundling up in bed when I can!

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Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

Add CommentViews: 111

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