Some of the earliest Halloween traditions started in Europe, yet the festivities are seen as a primarily American holiday with little or no fanfare in most European countries. During this time of year, the French are more concerned with Toussaint, or All Saints' Day, which takes place on November 1 and is celebrated as a public holiday in France.
On Toussaint, you'll see families going to the cemetery together to light candles in little lanterns and put flowers on the graves of their relatives. Some churches hold special services, public attractions will be closed, and the roads will be busier with French families enjoying the long weekend.
Despite Toussaint being the bigger holiday, you can also find some American Halloween traditions practiced in major cities like Paris and Nice. During October, especially toward the end of the month, you'll find Halloween-themed confectionary displays in chocolatier windows, children and adults dressed up in costumes, witch festivals, parades, and even special events at Disneyland Paris.
Attend the Witch Festival of Chalindrey
The city of Chalindrey—located south of the walled city of Langres in Haute-Marne, Champagne—hosts a Fête des Sorcières (Witch Festival) each year to honor the victims of the 16th century Fort of Cognelot witch hunts. The Witch Festival also features a holiday market, a tunnel of horror, concerts, workshops, exhibitions, and a parade to crown that year's Miss Witch. Other cities around France also take part in the tradition, but the festival in Chalindrey is by far the largest and most well-known.
Explore Haunted Abbeys Across the Country
Although France doesn't celebrate Halloween with as much of an emphasis on terrifying frights, you can create your own thrilling tour of the country by visiting the great tombs and effigies of France's haunted abbeys.
The ruined abbey church of Jumièges in northern France is just the place for a Halloween visit, where you can walk around the buildings with just the crows for company. Alternatively, you can walk through the Chateau of Blois in the Loire Valley and learn about the grisly murder of the infamous Duc de Guise.
For an even more-terrifying journey, you can climb the steep hill up to the glorious abbey of Vézelay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On a wet October day, all you will hear is the sound of your feet rustling in the fallen leaves. It’s one of the great sites on the famous St. James Way pilgrimage route from northern Europe to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
Celebrate Halloween at Disneyland Paris
Each day in October at Disneyland Paris, Halloween Celebrations transform Main Street USA into Spooky Street, which features a festive parade nightly and a special Disney villains-only showcase. On October 31, you can also enjoy all the rides, haunts, and thrills of the celebration overnight during the Disney Halloween Party. Although Disneyland Paris may be a bit more expensive than other destinations on this list, it's really the closest you'll find in France to a true American-style Halloween celebration.
March in the Limoges Halloween Parade
Limoges is the capital of Haute-Vienne in the Limousin region of France, just a cheap train ride away from Paris, and has celebrated Halloween with a special parade on October 31 since 1996. The event draws a big crowd every year and also includes street performances and parties across the city. The parade features ghosts, devils, and goblins carrying carved pumpkins. Many of the local restaurants and bars also join in on the fun by having waiters dress up in fun costumes.