9 Unique Fall Festivals Around the World
Fall may be about harvests and pumpkin spice everything, but there's a whole lot more going on that is worth checking out. There are also festivals around the world that you should add to your bucket list. Some of them are in far-reaching corners of the globe, so they may just be an excuse to plan a trip!
If you find yourself in South or Southeast Asia between October and November, you may be able to participate in Diwali. This five-day Hindu festival is a celebration of light over darkness. "Families cover their houses with candles and string lights and decorate their doorstep with a mandala-like design called a rangoli. Normally made from colored sand, it is meant to invite Lakhshmi, the goddess of prosperity, into a home. Tourists are often encouraged to participate in the festivities through dancing and eating special sweets," said Alanna Smith, editor at TravelPirates. Traditions vary across the region — in Nepal, for example, Diwali involves feeding street dogs and decorating them with flower necklaces.
Indians in the US (and around the world) celebrate in a big way, as well. "I work with a community development organization for women and children called the Desai Foundation. They are known for their annual Diwali bash in NY, which attracts a diverse group of movers-and-shakers, musicians, and actors from NY's Indian diaspora community and beyond. It's open to the public," said Teresa Bigelow, who works with the foundation.
Beignet Festival (Only in New Orleans)
Beignets for days! Well, just one day, technically. Beignet Fest rings in its inaugural ode to deep-fried pastry on Saturday, Oct. 6, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at New Orleans City Park Festival Grounds. Proceeds from Beignet Festival will benefit Tres Doux Foundation, whose mission is to celebrate and enhance the lives of children with developmental delays and disabilities.
Chuseok is a three-day celebration in South Korea. Normally falling around a full moon between September and October, this harvest festival involves honoring one's ancestors and sharing feasts with friends and family. People will generally return to ancestral towns in order to pay their respects by maintaining gravesites and laying out special food offerings. "Living participants can enjoy songpyeon, a sticky rice cake shaped like a half-moon, made with sweet fillings and steamed over fragrant pine needles. Older merrymakers can enjoy a liquor made from fresh rice," Smith said.
Guy Fawkes Night
If you've ever heard the rhyme "Remember, remember, the fifth of November," then you may have heard of Guy Fawkes Night. This holiday commemorates the arrest of Guy Fawkes, who was planning to blow up London's House of Lords and assassinate King James I, in 1605. "People across Great Britain lit bonfires in a celebration that eventually ballooned into a night of revelry and mischief. While things have calmed down in recent years, you can still find parades, bonfires, and burning effigies of Guy Fawkes across the UK on Nov. 5," Smith said.
Loi Krathong and Yi Peng
Thailand is one of the hottest travel destinations right now, but you may want to hold off on visiting until November in order to experience one of the world's most beautiful festivals. The festival is actually composed of two Thai holidays: Loi Krathong, from the southwest, and Yi Peng, from the north. "Both fall on the same day, which is normally the first full moon in November. For Loi Krathong, people will gather along riverways and launch small boats filled with offerings and candles, making a wish as they do so. For Yi Peng, thousands of sky lanterns, called khom loi, float into the night sky in a gorgeous glowing parade," Smith said.
The Mid-Autumn Festival will be celebrated in 2018 on Sept. 24. It is a harvest festival that dates back more than 1,000 years where families gather to honor the full moon, which symbolizes reunion, prosperity, and happiness. Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations include lanterns, a fire dragon dance, and mooncakes.
The Mid-Autumn Festival, or Moon Festival, is celebrated in China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and other surrounding countries. Normally held in late September or early October, it always coincides with a full moon. "The holiday is a time for family, thanksgiving, paper lanterns, and of course, eating moon cakes. These round pastries are traditionally filled with lotus seed paste, but modern recipes may substitute in ice cream. In some places, like Hong Kong and Vietnam, you may be able to witness the dragon or lion dance," Smith said.
People worldwide travel to Munich to celebrate Oktoberfest, the world's largest beer festival held annually in October. "Germans and international visitors wear traditional attire i.e. trachten and dirndls to celebrate beer consumption at its best. The festival is free of charge to attend, and people pay for what they consume," said Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette expert, author, and the founder of Access to Culture.
Día de los Muertos, or The Day of the Dead
Día de los Muertos is a Fall tradition that occurs on the first and second day of November. This isn't to be confused with a Mexican Halloween — although these holidays occur close together. "On the first day of November, families remember children who have died; on Nov. 2, adults are remembered. The traditional belief is that the spirits of deceased loved ones are allowed to join the living on those days. The celebrations include building altars, making food, creating skull face masks, hosting parades, and dancing to celebrate life," Schweitzer said. The days honor the dead and simultaneously celebrate life!
What is it about the tiny town of Lisdoonvarna, Ireland — which has a population of about 700 people — that draws tens of thousands of visitors every Fall? That would be the Matchmaking Festival, a month-long event that has been around for 150 years. "Come September, single visitors flock to Lisdoon for music, dancing, drinking, and the advice of a 70-year-old matchmaker who has been responsible for about 3,000 marriages. All are welcome — there is even a weekend for LGBTQ singles looking for a match," Smith said.