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    Recently, I read that a city in Germany was banning all things Halloween because it's just such a garish American tradition.

    I don't think it's right to rob children of this - American kids love it, why not Europeans? - but I do think it's dumb for adults to be dressing up and acting silly for Halloween. It's just not MY thing, I guess.

    Halloween just isn't viewed in France/Germany the way it is in the US. I don't think children are being "robbed" of anything. It's simply a part of American culture that we cannot simply expect Europeans to favor because "we" find/found it "fun". That's kind of arrogant, no?

    I wasn't allowed to celebrate Halloween when I was growing up and looking back I can honestly say that I don't feel "robbed" at all...and I live in New York City. It just wasn't a part of our culture.

    I do think it's rather questionable to "ban" such things. I think people deserve choices. But, then again Germany/France are not exactly the land of choices. I found it shocking that in either country, you can be punished for saying certain things that they deem controversial...simply because the words are controversial and not because your words cause harm to anyone else. It's a strange idea here, because you can say just about anything here, no matter how controversial.

    But, I'm saying this to point out that if a country can actually control/ban what you say, then certainly they can control/ban reference to a holiday that has such a controversial past.

    The French are just not a costume wearing culture. I almost had a party, I would have been a Hollywood starlet. US weekly, starbucks, big big handbag, tiny little cellphone.

    If something has been entered into a culture and is taken away - that is being robbed, especially if it gives children pleasure. You seem to be contradicting yourself with the "banning" comment anyway.

    Btw - just because it's acceptable to say anything in NYC doesn't mean it's polite to do so.

    I'm surprised to hear that the French are not a costume-wearing people. I would think that with fashion and art being so central to the French, that the idea of masquerade would still be very appealing.

    Forgive me, La Dauphine, but I'm thinking in legal parameters...not based on passions. Call it the curse of the law student...

    Note that I put "ban" in quotes. I think "banning" something is extreme because it takes away ANY option to choose. But I believe the French have every right to not embrace this "holiday". Why should they?

    By your same argument, every child/adult should celebrate Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, etc. regardless of their cultural, religious or political standpoints - according to your argument, one may infer that people should embrace these holidays simply because it gives some people “pleasure”.

    This is a very arrogant position and feeds into stereotypes of Americans. People have the right to embrace or shun American "holidays" (or anyone else’s) as they choose. Every child shouldn't be exposed to your culture or "holidays", simply because YOU or the kids YOU know derive pleasure from it.

    And note that not every child does. I for one felt pressured by other people to celebrate such holidays, because it simply wasn't a part of our culture. I didn't derive any pleasure from caused great anxiety for me. I'm just saying, don't assume everyone perceives such days the way that you do.

    In any case, the comment about being able to say anything...I'm not debating whether or not it's "polite". Again, I'm thinking legally...and politically, for that matter. When people are prevented from questioning governments, it leads to a slippery slope and becomes quite dangerous. A government can wield great power in an environment where it is illegal for anyone to speak out against its actions.

    France and Germany have this policy...I find it quite dangerous and surprising.

    In any case, I have no idea of what you meant in your comment about speaking in NYC and manners. :0(

    Keep your shirt on, Medina!

    I am not advocating American holidays for Europeans. If you were a mother, you'd know that it is sad for children to get excited about a holiday and have it taken away. By the way, how many children do you know don't like candy?

    Let's not soil La Coquette's blog anymore with our argument. Take your tantrum and weak illogical arguments over to my blog and email me if you dare.

    By the way - disappointing children because adults have their predjudices against other cultures is really REALLY sad.

    go medina, go! ;)

    i dont think the candy is the issue, i think its the holiday. should we make kids celebrate xmas just to get gifts? should we call the parents prejudice if the parents refuse to celebrate a holiday thats not theirs? THAT would be really sad

    GET REAL "BARBIE", Halloween does not have the same religious significance as Christmas! In NO way.

    Halloween is getting dressed up and giving children candy. The point is that once children get used to having this holiday - taking it away from them is putting adult predjudices over concern for our children and their happiness.

    If it never enters a culture, so be it. But taking it away is cruel.

    I'm curious as to what exactly cannot be said about the french government (what is "banned"), because since I moved to France I think not one day has passed by without seing the government being bashed in media by political opponents, intellectuals or comedians.

    Perhaps I need to clarify: my original point was that Germany was DOING AWAY WITH A HOLIDAY THAT WAS BECOMING ESTABLISHED.

    Do I give a flit who celebrates Halloween? No.

    Do I care that children who WANT to do so will not be able to? Yes.

    Is Christmas and Thanksgiving IN ANY WAY the same holiday at Halloween? NOT AT ALL

    BANNING a holiday and FORCING holidays on people are equally dictatorial. I am for neither. Capiche?

    Sweet. Blog wars. Anyhow...

    Kristina, re: your speech question, it's not so much speech related to the government, but speech at the edges of the political spectrum. "Hate speech" or xenophobic remarks can be an actionable offense. You can be convicted and fined for writing a racial slur.

    This means that courts can get caught up in cases deciding what is acceptable speech and what isn't. Brigitte Bardot was recently fined 5,000 euros for writing a book attacking the Islamization of France. The court held that she was inciting racial hatred.

    A troupe of kids all wearing the same costume brings images of French stories Madeline to my mind. Yes, I'm cheesy. But I love Madeline.

    DDJ, you're absolutely right, that too...but the speech that I mentioned dealt with any French or German citizens that speak out against the apartheid policies in Palestine/Israel. I'm not so sure of France, because I didn't live there long enough, but I know they have the same policy that Germany does in that regard. Public figures, e.g. authors/journalists, that speak out against it often face fines or the threat of criminal prosecution. Politicians that speak out against it almost always lose their jobs as a result.

    So, Kristine, that's what I was talking about when I mentioned how dangerous that can become. Where do we draw the line? Who decides what is acceptable? But I just mentioned that to say that if a country can make it illegal for you to utter certain words or opinions, then it doesn't really surprise me that they'd also decide to ban a holiday...and that it would be within their rights to do so.

    It still does not make sense though, that a democratic or socialist society could ban a holiday that has no religious or culturally extreme position.

    Neil, I don't know, I got this idea in my head last year:

    Medina, La Dauphine, I'm so above the fray and non-partisan not to interject, non? Sorry, I just didn't have much to add and it's been a long day. But very interesting points raised.

    Prefer non-partisan to condescending (here that, DDJ?). Halloween or no, so long as I don't get banned from La Coquette - so I'll shut up now because I'm sure I'm toe-ing the line. ;)

    So, in other news...any excuse to eat chocolate by the handful is alright by me :)

    Never thought of yours as such a political forum, but what a fun exchange. Good thoughts and exuberance! And good original post from you. I thought of Madline too.

    I'm really suprised to hear (Medina) that you believe French people are fined/legally penalized for "saying anything controversial" or speaking out against the state? On what facts are you basing that statement? The French love a good controversial argument! And since on a daily basis there is always someone striking or protesting against something somewhere in France, if it were illegal to create controversy, half the French population would have been in jail by now.

    And I used to work for a German company with many German colleagues and never once did I hear them speak about free speech being repressed there, either. I would think after the repression of life under Hitler the German people would be adamantly opposed to any policy that prohibits speaking out against the government.

    Having said that, I do find it very interesting that hate speech IS banned in France (thanks for that tidbit, DDJ).

    When I first heard french kids trick or treating I thought they were saying "des bonbons ou on sort". (candy, or we're leaving), which struck me as a terrible translation until some one clued me in that it was "des bonbons ou UN sort". (spell)

    One thing this whole American Holiday in Europe discussion reminds me of was when the US was all ticked off at France for not supporting their (misguided) political views re: Iraq and here in Atlanta there was a HUGE backlash against the French.

    My poor teacher at the Alliance Francaise was receiving threats daily. A local restaurant, Canoe, dumped all their French wine in the Chatahoochee River. I purposely never ate at Canoe - one of the city's best restaurants and close to where I work - again. In addition I refused to schedule our company parties there. I thought it was disgusting and narrow-minded.

    However, hearing the support of Europeans to ban/boycott Halloween simply because it is an American holiday is equally disgusting. Just because some people choose to celebrate it, does not mean it's being forced on anyone. I guess Europeans can be just as narrow-minded as Americans.

    Oh my GOD, you are so right about that. I recently moved to a sleepy little corner of france, so I thought they'd be all about the cuteness. Not so - it's just marzipan ghosts in the patisseries. I did see a group of kids yesterday, dressed in - you got it - matching costumes. They weren't even dressed UP as anything. They just had on capes! I had my hopes up for this, too, because of the time I asked a waitress what courge is, and she said, "'Alloween?"
    I feel like an asshole, too, telling everyone how BIG and SPECIAL and MAGICAL the holiday is. You got the feeling right on.

    I remember when "Freedom Fries" were really big in the USA after 9/11. It was scary. But I agree that it's wierd that the French are so threatened by a simple little American holiday. Remember in "Le Divorce" when Kate Hudson says that the French are 'culturally threatened by a cartoon' (meaning the Simpsons)?

    I don't get it La Dauphine, or maybe I skipped an episode but who said Halloween would have to be banned (in france or elsewhere)?

    Hi Lisa,

    Someone gave an example earlier that was very indicative of what I'm talking about: Bridgit Bardot. If you make such matter if they harm someone or not...simply because they are controversial they are deemed "hate speech" and you are punished in accordance with French/German law.

    I'm kind of surprised that you could reside in Germany and not be aware of that since it's a LOT worse in Germany (paranoia has resulted as a result of their earlier history). I lived in Frankfurt and Darmstadt for several years and this is well-known to anyone that's German. Also, if you read the French news, there are several references to this...including Bridgit Bardot (she's no stranger to this...she has been fined repeatedly as a result and I believe she was even jailed briefly).

    Hence my earlier comment about "where do you draw the line"...

    But when I mentioned "speaking out against governments", I wasn't necessarily talking about one's own government. The example that I gave was that of someone speaking out against a foreign government, and being penalized for it by your own government. Okay, that's it! :0)

    I watch Deutsche Welle and Le Journal on TV5 every night and the arguments they proposed in protest of Halloween was that it is rooted in "evil" and encourages gore and violence. Whether or not that's true, I guess that depends on who you ask.

    I'm just saying, I never heard them say they wanted to be rid of it SIMPLY because it's American...

    Coquette, La Dauphine and Medina:

    Great post again.

    I'm somewhat surprised, ( although enjoyed), at the debate between La Dauphine and Medina about Halloween.
    Seems to me that, in the end, it's about two countries having different customs and holidays. Each has its holidays based on their history. The histories are their own and different. I do not understand why the French want to have Halloween - unless they they want to "copy" the US. But 80% of the country is against that idea. Only the remaining 20% may try to make Halloween a Holiday and have their kids all dress up as Madelines! The odds are against them to succeed.

    Coquette's dad

    How would you feel if some kids knocked on your door on a random night and demanded lollies? That's what it means to the non-US world.

    Just because kids watched US movies and thought it'd be a great opportunity to annoy their neighbours into giving them chocolate - and if not, to trash their front yard.

    Sounds like extortion to me.

    DDJ, thanks for the clarification. "xenophobic remarks" are illegal in Sweden too (where I'm from), and I don't find that shocking. Voila, things are different in different countries, and I think there has been som inflation in the word "freedom" in the US anyway. Freedom fries is only one example. Are Americans victims of marketers? Slogans instead of arguments? .....

    Just to clarify a few points...

    Halloween has never been banned in France. Right, some people argue about the inadequacy of transposing a foreign holiday to a country that already has a tradition of its own (la Toussaint - holiday of all saints, when people bring flowers to their loved ones' graves), even though Halloween is much more cheerful than the French tradition... And, right again, the fact that it comes from the USA makes some people uncomfortable, but I believe they're a minority. Some French people do feel threatened by Anglo-saxon culture (ie from English-speaking countries), but it's more a question of preserving cultural diversity than banning something just because it's American.

    However, I believe most people here just don't care about it. Like I said, it has no historical background in France, and therefore is perceived only as a means for shops to make money before Christmas. For a few years, Halloween was rather popular, but I have noticed that, for the last two or three years, people don't care anymore. It's just not working here...

    As for freedom of speech... Well, since arguing about anything and everything is our national sport, no law could stop it (it would be criticised right away!).
    There is one exception - hate speech, as some of you mentioned it above. And the circumstances in which you could be condemned are very precise. It's called incitation à la haine (raciale, homophobe, sexiste...), and it deals with speeches or texts that encourage discrimination, violence against a given community, or the apology of crimes against humanity (sorry, that's literal translation). Attacking a community on their race, sex, or sexual orientation is against the French conception of Republic, in which all citizens are equal (in theory).
    Then again, don't forget to put that law in its historical perspective... France has a heavy history in antisemitism and in collaborating with the Nazis (WW2, the régime de Vichy)... These laws were voted in order to prevent history from being repeated.

    I agree it may seem shocking for people whose culture lies heavily on freedom of speech, but then again, I was really shocked to hear Islamic preachers advocating war against the Western world in very violent terms in Hyde Park corner when I lived in London... Guess that's what they call a clash of cultures! (literal translation again)

    Associated Press news item on voluntary boycotts of Halloween in Europe:

    Editorial on attempts to ban Halloween in Europe:

    Nan - you do bring up a very good point: refusal of an American holiday because they don't like Americans versus doing so to "preserve" the culture. That's a very fine line to walk and I believe both beliefs exist here.

    Nan, thank you for the historical perspective. well said.

    LOL, I don't know here all of you come from but I don't remember not a single restaurant (where I live anyway)that served "freedom fries". As I recall that ridiculous thing started in the House cafeteria. And yep there were some ingnorant people boycotting french wine etc but by far the majority of the population were not. Sure I think some Americans say bad things about the French and the French say bad things about Americans yet I find the majority of people on both sides of the atlantic when meeting face to face will base thier opinions of eachother on who you are as an individual. I think America and France have a sort of love hate relationship that probably shouldn't be taken too seriously. I've lived both places and the Americans and French are kidding themselves if they think they are that different, they are more alike than they are different.
    As for the Halloween discussion I find it such a trivial topic to argue over. It's no wonder the world is in the state it's in considering people get their panties in a wad over halloween. Personally I don't anyone should feel pressured to celebrate something that's not thier custom on the other hand "the day of the dead" is celebrated here and I don't think anyone who doesn't celebrate it feels force to nor have I heard anyone complain. I don't feel pressured to recognize the holiday but I find taking part in another cultures customs facinating. So, I guess it's all about how you look at it. It could either be a new fun experience, or an annoying inconvenience. To each his or her own.

    OHMYGOD. All I wanted to say is: I really miss waxed lips.

    Gwen - are you kidding?? You clearly don't live in the deep South because things were VERY different here (look who America re-elected!). If only everyone could have your lighthearted, simple approach.

    ...and I don't think the Atlanta Alliance Francaise would "LOL" at the threats they received. I wish I lived where you do so I didn't have to face the conservative realities of this country.

    Humans are fundamentally alike in regard to...the fundamentals. We all laugh, cry, feel pain, and love (well, hopefully most of us love).

    But let's not kid ourselves by chirping about how alike we all are. I think it's very telling that people find it difficult to accept and embrace each other's differences. It's like people can't accept each other unless they convince themselves that we are so alike.

    The French, as any other culture, are very different from American culture. And American culture and values vary according to region and ethnicity, just as they do in France, Germany, etc.

    It's one of the many things that make us just so beautiful and provocative. Love it, embrace it...own it.

    Nan, I don't think this is a very precise parameter: speeches or texts that encourage discrimination. Attacking a community on their race, sex, or sexual orientation.

    I think it's very vague. Anything and anyone can fall into that guideline. Or rather, the way in which this law is applied is often very controversial. Where and when do we draw the line? That's really where I'm coming from...

    And remember, the US has the same law...but it is VERY specific. But, I understand why France and Germany have such laws. I just see that the line gets blurred, as a result.

    I really think it's great that laws like that shut up the nuts in this world, don't get me wrong. But I'm sad that such laws are also applied inappropriately and shut up the courageous writers, thinkers, etc. with the yearning to effect change.

    I can finally say I agree with you Medina.

    The Halloween issue, as an issue, is not "trivial" at all - clearly it touches to the core of the culture of many people. It's been a very interesting topic to discuss, I must say.

    Now everyone's sick of me: so I'm going now. REALLY. :)

    Medina, just to follow your argument, can you give an example of a writer or thinker who has been shut up based on these laws? (other than BB)

    Hey....what about the display of molotov cocktails in the suburbs? How's the general public dealing with this...?

    Medina: you're right, that's not easy to draw a line... I don't know much about American laws, so I can't tell anything on that issue (hey, what an exploit - you've just shut a FRENCHWOMAN up! LOL).
    But to my knowledge, French courts are very careful about condemning people on the grounds of hate speech. We too are attached to the concept of freedom of speech (though in a different way perhaps). Apart from BB, the people who have been condemned had all led extremist speeches, like negationist "historians" (who say the Holocaust hasn't taken place at all...), or Jean-Marie Le Pen (yes, you are allowed to laugh out loud at his name), leader of the Front national, the French far-right party. Or, more recently, like Dieudonné, a comic whose lines against Jews had him condemned - while he claims that this is racism, since he happens to be black... C'est l'hôpital qui se fout de la charité! (ie: he denounces exactly what he himself does repeatedly)
    But not your average writer or journalist who, say, denounces the dubious role of the French army (and therefore government) in the Côte d'Ivoire political crisis.

    I understand this may seem quite blurred to you, but that law is like any other in any country: there's the text itself, and there's the way you use it, depending of your political orientations. And thank God, France is not a dictatorship... Civil society has its say on these topics!

    That said, this topic reminds me of happy evenings trying to explain to my British friends why we French had such a complicated debate about whether or not Muslim girls should be allowed to wear scarves at school. You just don't know what's wrong with that until someone points out that it's weird... And you end up wondering about the accuracy of your own arguments!

    As a conclusion: vive le mélange des cultures! That's what keeps us thinking...

    Omigod, I've just realised how long is my comment... Sorry about that guys, I promise I'll shut up for, say, the next 24 hours...

    Thank goodness for your blog, have very bright people here. It's very nice to see :0)

    Now get out of my parlour before you spill red wine on the carpet!

    I kid. This has been very, very insightful and I have to thank you all for sharing your brains. I also have to jump on board with Medina and La Dauphine to say that Gwen, I just don't agree with you. Halloween is not a trivial subject to be arguing about, not for a second.

    Lauren, des bonbons ou un sort--THANK YOU!! I was wondering, myself.

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