It’s that time of year again- crisp leaves, chilly air, shorter days, and kids going back to school. This can only mean one thing- it’s autumn again! We celebrate the turn of the season by carving pumpkins & letting our kids knock on strangers’ doors and demand candy, but how does the rest of the world celebrate the fall harvest with their families? Read on for the top ten autumnal festivals from around the globe.
Fall for Autumn in the United States
The US is infamous for its love of Halloween and Thanksgiving, but there’s so much more to the season than candy and turkey. Be sure to check out your local pumpkin patch and apple orchard- many farms go all out on the autumnal decorations, with apple cider and donuts available for treats. Pick out your perfect orange pumpkin, and make sure to stop by a corn maze and enjoy getting lost in the sweet-smelling corn field! Many farms also have a small petting zoo, and the kids will enjoy feeding the goats and chickens. No farm next to where you live? No problem. Many city zoos and community centers host fall festivities as well.
Gather with Family During Chuseok in South Korea
One of the largest and most beloved holidays in South Korea, Chuseok celebrates family ties, cultural customs, and the memories of deceased family members. Celebrated during the autumn equinox with rites to honor the ancestors, Chuseok is a time for families to get together, even during a busy season. Charye, or rites to honor the dead, are performed by placing food on the table and saying a prayer for the ancestors. South Koreans also visit ancestral graves and ancestral homes, leaving gifts of food and wine in a rite called Seongmyo. To show respect for the dead and demonstrate familial ties, family members will clean and decorate headstones in a process called Beolcho. In the evenings, family members celebrate the harvest and commemorate ancestors by sharing a feast.
Join with Sacred and Ancient Rituals During Incwala in Swaziland
Though previously commonly celebrated in many African countries, Incwala is now less well known, but is one of Swaziland’s main cultural events. Incwala is commonly translated as the “first fruits festival”, but this is just one of the many steps of this festival, which is celebrated in December/ January. The details of this holiday are shrouded in a lot of secrecy, so tourists are allowed to partake in the activities but are not permitted to take pictures or record any part of the event except by special permit. Incwala celebrate cleansing and renewal, and above all the kingship, with most of the activities centering around the royal capital.
Raise a Glass to Germany’s Oktoberfest
With 7.5 million liters of beer consumed by 6.2 million guests at Germany’s Oktoberfest, this yearly two-week festival has grown to international popularity. But this two week festival that takes place in picturesque Munich in the southern part of Germany, in Bavaria, is not just about the beer. Bring the kids along to watch the traditional parade on the first day, and stay for the family-friendly activities during the rest of the week. A costume parade, roller coaster rides, performances by actors in traditional clothing, and carnival games are just some of the family fun at the festival. Don’t forget to dress up!
Remember Loved Ones with Dia de los Muertos in Mexico
Celebrated through-out Latin America but primarily by people with Mexican heritage, Dia de Muertos is a gathering of family and friends to remember their loved ones who have died, and to help support them on their spiritual journey. This celebration has roots in Indigenous practices, and has been influenced by the Catholic church’s presence- it is celebrated on All-Saints day, a Catholic holiday. However, this is not a solemn and dreary holiday- children are a central part of the festivities, helping to build the colorful altars and invite spirits of children and adults to come back and visit. Festive costumes, food, and humorous recollections of the deceased give this celebration a colorful outlook on respecting those who have passed.
Be Joyful with Sukkot in Israel
Jews in Israel and around the world mark the autumn with a joyful celebration of harvest, food, and family. Families celebrate by building a Sukkah, or temporary outdoors shelter, in their backyard to signify the years that the Jewish people spent wandering the desert. Though this holiday has important religious connotations, it’s also great fun for the kids- building a fort like structure in their backyard, and spending as much time in it as possible- it is tradition to eat, relax, and even sleep in the Sukkah if possible- is fun for kids of all ages. In North America, families often decorate their Sukkahs with autumnal decor- pumpkins, squash, corn, and children’s drawings adorn the walls of the Sukkah.
Celebrate the Changing Light with Diwali in India
Diwali, or a celebration of light, is a joy-filled holiday full of run and revelry, and is one of the biggest festivals in India. The five days of Diwali are celebrated at home with the family, as well as in the community. Gifts and sweets are exchanged between loved ones, and Diya lamps and candles are lit around the house to signify the victory of light over darkness. Goddess Lakshmi is worshipped during this holiday to celebrate health and wealth. Celebrated through-out all of India, Diwali is particularly popular with children, who love to light firecrackers to gleefully chase away any darkness or evil in the coming year.
Rejoice in Friendship and Love During Mehregan, the Persian Festival of Autumn
One of very few pre-Muslim holidays to still be celebrated widely in Iran, and the Muslim world today, Mehregan is a celebration of love, friendship, and the changing of the season and end of the harvest. Families and young people decorate their table with elaborate, colorful meals, and include marjoram on the displays and in handfuls thrown overhead for good fortune. Named after Mithra- the goddess of light and goodness- Mehregan is celebrated widely as a joyful harvest festival.
Remember the 5th of November with a Bonfire Night in Britain
In England, Wales, and Scotland, families and children gather to celebrate what didn’t happen- an attempted coup and assassination of the king by Guy Fawkes, who planned to blow up the parliament. Traditionally, a bonfire is built and an effigy of Guy burned, although this is dwindling in popularity due to safety concerns, and the questionable ethics of celebrating the violent execution of a minority Catholic sympathizer. However, Guy Fawkes day is still widely known in Britain, with children reciting the ominous rhyme- “remember, remember, the 5th of November”- and learning about the history of lighting bonfires to celebrate the safety of the king.
Honor the Moon During the Harvest Festival in China and Vietnam
Second in popularity only to the Chinese New Year, the Mid-Autumn festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is the celebration of the autumnal equinox and the time when the moon is biggest and roundest. Traditionally celebrated with close family and friends, this gathering and thanksgiving for the fortune of of harvest has been incorporated into and celebrated by many different Asian ethnic minorities under different names. In China, it is celebrated by eating sweet moon cakes made of red bean paste and by praying for your good fortune in the year to come- for happiness & health- and by celebrating the moon when it is fullest and brightest.