Halloween in France (Corsica): Chestnuts and ‘Bread of the Dead’

It’s raining hard and barely above freezing right now in Vancouver, which is maybe why I’m thinking longingly of southern France. And the French island of Corsica is about as far south as you can get. It’s also beautiful: steep mountains, gorgeous white sand beaches, temperate climate.

The other reason I’m thinking of France is because today is very much a family day there. The French don’t celebrate Halloween, but rather the Catholic (with pagan roots) holiday of Toussaint (All Saints Eve). My husband’s family will be visiting the graves of their ancestors and laying flowers, and enjoying one of their extended family meals.

So, what do the French eat on Halloween? Corsicans traditionally leave chestnuts (châtaignes) on their windowsills. Chestnut harvest happens in the fall, and the fruit from the ‘tree of life’ is eaten roasted, or ground into flour and used in all sorts of foods: bread, porridge, cakes, and cookies. A traditional Corsican All Saints Eve speciality is the ‘Bread of the Dead’ (“Pain des Morts”), made with raisins and walnuts, and sold in local markets and bakeries.

One of the things I love about France is the way in which food traditions are locally rooted and associated with holidays throughout the year. This is a lovely way to create and celebrate a local food culture.

Does your family or community have any Halloween food traditions?

One thought on “Halloween in France (Corsica): Chestnuts and ‘Bread of the Dead’

  1. What a beautiful tradition, connecting food with the kind of deep family connection that really makes us feel human, death as part of the cycle of life … we don’t often underline it except at funerals. In comparison, North American Hallowe’en seems laughably shallow, vapid and worthy of the indifference (NB for Adults) that I accord it … here for kids, it’s all about the fun of dressing up in costumes. Your post makes me want to go to Corsica!!!


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