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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 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.

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Jan 31

The French University System

In honour of the start of a new semester, I thought it might be useful to introduce readers to the French university system and, later, to French vocabulary used often in the academic setting. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up using this new vocabulary while registering for classes in France!

In France, degrees are divided up into License, Master, and Doctorat levels. The License level is equivalent to a Bachelor’s program, although it typically takes three years of study instead of the four in the United States. The Master level is a two-year graduate program.

However, students still get credit for passing just the first year of courses in many cases (which is called un Master 1).

The Doctorat level (equivalent to a doctorate degree) is an additional three years of—typically, largely independent—study (and terminating with a work of original research, or dissertation, known as une thèse).

French Uni

Most universities in France are public. These schools are referred to informally as la fac. Prices for these schools are typically heavily subsidised by the French government and students typically pay only several hundred euros in fees per year. Private schools are more expensive, of course.

Then, there are also les grandes écoles. These schools are highly competitive and elite; typically students can only be accepted into these schools if they pass rigorous entrance exams. Although there is no real equivalent of these schools in the UK or the United States, they might be compared to ivy league schools. Les grandes écoles are also typically more expensive than la fac. 

The French university schedule is very similar to other universities across Europe and the US. However, universities typically start a bit later in France than in the United States, with fall semesters beginning often in late September or early October and spring semesters extending until July.

University students have many advantages in France, from access to cheap movie tickets, subway and train tickets, museum passes, and even special restaurants that cater to university students and only cost several euros for full meals. Students in big cities like Paris also have access to student housing for discounted rates.

International students who are interested in studying in France can check out the government website at Campus France for more information about applying for student visas and universities.

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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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