15 International Fall Traditions You'll Want to Adopt
As hot summer temperatures give way to cooler air and falling leaves, people around the world celebrate the arrival of fall. Thinking about supplementing your apple picking- and pumpkin carving-routine? Here are 15 international fall traditions you’ll want to adopt.
1. CELEBRATE YOUR ANCESTORS …
During Chuseok, a harvest festival, Koreans spend three days reuniting with family, playing games, and eating songpyeon, rice cakes with a sweet filling. Chuseok generally falls in either late September or early October, and Koreans give thanks to their ancestors by visiting their graves and offering food to their forefathers’ spirits. There are plenty of opportunities to let loose, too: people attend traditional wrestling matches, dances, and, of course, feasts.
2. … OR PRECIOUS WORKS OF ART
El Senor de los Milagros, or the Lord of Miracles, is an annual festival in which Peruvians honor a mural, Lord of Miracles. This mural of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion miraculously survived a 1687 earthquake that destroyed the rest of Lima, Peru. To this day, a huge crowd gathers to carry the mural in the streets as a way of honoring the artwork’s religious and symbolic power over destruction. Peruvians also wear purple—to honor nuns who wore purple robes—and feast on skewers of grilled meat, pastries, and pumpkin fritters.
3. HOST A BONFIRE
In 1605, a group of Catholics conspired to assassinate England’s Protestant monarch, King James I, and install a Cathlolic monarch. Guy Fawkes was a Catholic soldier participating in this conspiracy (called the Gunpowder Plot) to blow up British Parliament and kill the king. But in early November, Fawkes was caught and arrested while guarding a stockpile of gunpowder, and the plot was foiled. So every November 5, thousands of British people celebrate Guy Fawkes Night by lighting bonfires, burning effigies of Fawkes, and watching fireworks.
4. SNACK ON MOONCAKES
For thousands of years, Chinese people have celebrated the full moon during the Mid-Autumn Festival. On the 15th day of the 8th lunar month—usually sometime in September or October—people all over China light incense sticks, spend time with family, and give each other mooncakes (sweet round pastries filled with red bean or lotus seed paste). If you’re not in China but want to celebrate, look for mooncakes at your local Asian bakery.
5. SNAG A PRETZEL (OR SOME ‘WURST)
Oktoberfest is about more than drinking beer. Started in 1810 as a royal wedding celebration for a Bavarian prince and his princess, Oktoberfest has grown into an international fall festival, with events taking place every September to October in cities around the world. In Munich, Germany, Oktoberfest partiers hop between beer tents, watch parades, listen to music, play games, and munch on pretzels and authentic German sausages. No need to book a trip to Germany to get in on the action: you can probably find a smaller event in a city near you. Even vegans in Southern California can join in the revelry at a vegan Oktoberfest in Los Angeles, proving that no matter where you live (or what you eat), there’s an Oktoberfest celebration for you.
6. ATTEND A REGATTA
Every fall, Cambodians spend three days celebrating the seasonal movement of the Tonle Sap River in Phnom Penh. After heavy rains back up the river, winds cause the flow of the river to reverse, making the river flood with fish and sediment. The holiday, which usually occurs in early November, brings hundreds of thousands of people together to watch traditional boat races, dance, and set off fireworks.
7. LOAD UP ON GARLIC
On November 30, Scots pay homage to Saint Andrew, the Catholic patron saint of Scotland by eating, drinking, watching live music and dance shows, marching in parades, and attending special events at museums and parks. Because Saint Andrew is also the patron saint of other countries, such as Barbados and a handful of Eastern European nations, St. Andrew’s Day celebrations aren’t limited to the land of haggis and bagpipes. According to Romanian tradition, the night before St. Andrew’s Day should be spent downing a garlic-heavy feast; the seasoning was said to protect the eater from evil spirits.
8. GROW A MUSTACHE
In 2003, two friends in Melbourne, Australia, came up with the idea for Movember over beers. They convinced 30 friends to grow their moustaches out for the month of November to raise money for charity. The next year, almost 500 Australians participated, raising around AU$54,000 for an Aussie prostate cancer organization. Movember then spread to other countries including New Zealand, Canada, and the U.S.; to date, millions of people around the world have participated. Today, the resulting foundation raises money for men’s health issues, focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health initiatives.
9. ROAST CHESTNUTS
Don’t wait ‘til December 24 to break out the chestnuts. In Provence’s town of Collobrières, the so-called Chestnut Capital of the World, locals and visitors alike celebrate the annual chestnut harvest every October with a festival devoted to all things chestnut (think: pies, preserves, and marron glacés, or candied chestnuts). What to pair with all those nuts? A glass of the year’s newly-produced wine, of course.
10. HOLD A PROCESSION
Every November 11, Germans celebrate St. Martin’s Day, named after St. Martin of Tours, a bishop and Catholic saint who lived in the 300s CE. On this holiday, which honors St. Martin’s work with the poor, children hold handmade paper lanterns and walk down the street singing songs about the saint. After the lantern procession, both children and adults eat Weckmänner, a German pastry shaped like a gingerbread man.
11. BREAK OUT THE SKULLS
In Mexico (as well as parts of Central and South America), people honor their dead friends and relatives on the first two days of November. Although at first glance, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) may seem macabre, the festival is actually a fun (and colorful) celebration of life. Mexicans wear bright costumes, dance in parades, and decorate their homes with painted skull figurines. People also pay visits to the graves of long-gone family members, setting up altars and leaving flowers, plates of food, and trinkets as a tribute.
12. BOB FOR APPLES
Every November 1, the Welsh marked Calan Gaeaf, traditionally considered the first day of winter. The night before, however, was devoted to celebrating Nos Calan Gaeaf, or Winter’s Eve. According to legend, this was a night for the restless spirit of a tailless black sow to roam the countryside, seeking out stragglers who had yet to make it home. Before everyone tucked in for the night, however, revelers gathered around bonfires, feasted, and bobbed for apples. Unmarried women would divvy up a porridge made from nine ingredients, with a wedding ring hidden in the pot. Whoever found the ring in her bowl was said to be the next to marry.
13. RELEASE A LANTERN
Each November, Thai people celebrate Loi Krathong, a festival of light in which people release candles on small floating vessels (called krathongs) onto the water. To honor the goddess of water, Thai people offer the krathongs to rivers, lakes, ponds, and even swimming pools, in celebration of hope and light. In Bangkok, you can buy krathongs made of banana leaves, flowers, coconuts, or styrofoam, and fireworks, music, and dance performances give the annual event a festive feeling. People in northern Thailand celebrate Yi Peng, a similar event in which they release floating lanterns into the sky instead of onto the water.
14. SEEK OUT A MIRACLE
In mid-October, millions of Brazilians gather at Belém to honor a statue of Our Lady of Nazareth. The statue, which allegedly performed miracles in medieval Europe, is the center of attention at the festival, and huge crowds try to get as close as possible to it. Hoping to be blessed by the statue’s religious power, Brazilians even try to touch the rope around the statue. They ride in floats to parade the statue between cities and over a river, finally bringing Our Lady of Nazareth to a cathedral. Brazilians also celebrate with fireworks, music, and dancing.
15. LOOK ON THE BRIGHT SIDE
As India’s festival of lights, Diwali is a celebration of abundance and light over darkness. For five days in October or November, Hindu Indians (as well as Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists) light oil lamps and candles around their houses, set off colorful fireworks, design vibrant patterns of sand, and shop for gifts. They also pray to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, hoping for good luck and abundance in the year ahead.