Posts filed under ‘About Essoyes’

Hallowe’en and Toussaint in Essoyes


The season is entering one of its most beautiful moments, as the leaves turn color and the low-slanting light of autumn works its magic.


The real holiday here this week was Toussaint (All Saints’ Day), November 1, and it is a big and important one. It is also solemn and serious, all about remembering the dead, honoring their memories. It is a family holiday, a time for cleaning and decorating graves with flowers, then sharing a special meal together.

It is such an important holiday, in fact, that French schoolchildren are given a two-week vacation surrounding the time of Toussaint, I suppose to allow families who live far from the graves of their ancestors to be able to go there to honor them if they want to.

Hallowe’en as it is celebrated in the United States–meaning with costumes, candy, trick-or-treating–is NOT really a French thing, though over the past 20 years or so it has gained some popularity in some places, including in Essoyes. On Tuesday afternoon, October 31, there was a simple little Halloween parade through the village, starting at the Maison pour Tous, a community center that arranges all kinds of activities for both children and adults. I went to see the beginning of the parade: I didn’t see any princesses or superheroes, but I saw a lot of devils, pretty little witches, and various kinds of goblins and ghouls. Accompanied by adult volunteers, the parade of mostly children posed for a picture before starting their walk through the streets of the village with their little plastic pumpkins ready to receive treats, some of which were showered upon them by bystanders as they began their walk.



I couldn’t stay for the whole thing so I’m not sure where they ended up but my best guess is at the Place de la Mairie, where I am pretty sure they were given more treats.

The next day I took a walk to the cemetery to pay homage to two good friends who are buried there. Although a variety of flowers are brought to the cemetery at Toussaint, the traditional flower to place on the graves is chrysanthemums, because they tend to hold their blossoms longer. (This is also the reason you should never bring chrysanthemums to a dinner party in France: because they are associated strictly with honoring the dead.)

I think it’s nice that in France some people are now enjoying the fun of kids dressing up for Hallowe’en, thus preceding the solemn celebration of Toussaint with something fun. I think it would also be wonderful if more people in the United States knew of the connection between Hallowe’en (which after all, means “hallowed eve”) and Toussaint. That too would be more balanced, wouldn’t it?

Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature who divides her time between the U.S. and France. She leads book groups at the American Library in Paris, writing workshops in Essoyes, a village in the Champagne region, and teaches “Paris: A Literary Adventure” each summer, in Paris, for Queens College, CUNY.



November 4, 2017 at 5:20 pm 2 comments

Early Autumn in Essoyes

…I am enjoying the pleasure of being once again on the edge of the forest. Listening to the birds, seeing them hop around on the railing outside my window, or peek inside. Enjoying the sound of wings flapping–is it an owl, is it a hawk? I have no idea, but whoever it is that goes scuttering out of the tops of the trees when I walk down the path in the mornings to get wood for the fire has very big, strong wings….

Continue Reading September 22, 2017 at 7:44 am 4 comments

One more vendange come and gone…

The vendange has already come and gone…it was exceptionally early this year….

Continue Reading September 12, 2017 at 3:51 pm 4 comments

La rentrée, La vendange, à Essoyes

…the big field where the gens de voyage who have come here to pick grapes during the vendange park their campers was empty, and now it is not. As the sun set last night, I could hear the hum of the motors of their caravans, the cries of children playing in the evening air…

Continue Reading August 28, 2017 at 8:13 am Leave a comment

Interview with Bernard Pharisien, Local Historian (in English and in French)

An interview with the man who probably knows more about the history of Essoyes, and the Renoir family in Essoyes, than anyone else…

Continue Reading August 18, 2017 at 3:30 pm Leave a comment

Essoyes à la Belle Epoque…a magnificent success!

“As part of the department-wide Year of Renoir, the village of Essoyes hosted a weekend-long return to the year 1900—to celebrate and showcase what Essoyes was like in the height of the period when Renoir and his family would come to the village, to paysanner (enjoy the countryside)…”

Continue Reading July 24, 2017 at 7:20 pm Leave a comment

Et voila! La Maison #Renoir is open to the public!

…yesterday, the Renoir family home, which has been under an intense process of renovation for the past year, was at last ready for visitors–and right on schedule!…

Continue Reading June 3, 2017 at 2:02 pm Leave a comment

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