How Other Countries Celebrate the Fall Season
In the United States, the Fall season is a big deal for many people. As early as the end of August and the beginning of September, it’s common to see the pumpkin spice flavored foods and drinks and Fall decorations come out in full swing. Pumpkins, leaves in reds, yellows, oranges, and browns, scarecrows, apples, pinecones, squash and acorns adorn homes all over the US, as well as computer and cellphone screens, Facebook profiles, and offices.
In restaurants and homes all over the country, pumpkin themed meals are being made and warm drinks are being offered. Fall also bring Halloween and Thanksgiving, both popular holidays in this country. On Halloween, the 31st of October, children and adults alike dress up in costumes, go from door to door to get candy put in their bags, and throw parties full of gruesome foods and scary movies.
Thanksgiving on the other hand, is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. It originated as a harvest festival. As the story goes, in September 1620 a ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying religious refugees seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith. After a long and difficult journey the religious refugees, known as the Pilgrims, arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts, America. After a brutal winter in 1620 they were left malnourished and weak and half of starved to death.
Luckily the locals taught the Pilgrims how to farm and, after their first harvest in November 1621, everyone had a gratitude-filled meal to celebrate. It is seen as a time to be thankful for all the good things in life and many people attend religious services, say prayers at dinner time and tell others what they are thankful for. It is typically a time for family to come together from all over the country and eat a large meal compromised mainly of turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.
Let’s see how people from other countries all over the world celebrate the Fall!
In 2003, two friends in Melbourne, Australia, came up with the idea forMovember 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 $54,000 for an Aussie prostate cancer organization. Today, the resulting foundation raises money for men’s health issues, focusing on prostate cancer, testicular cancer, and mental health initiatives.
Austria and Switzerland
Those in Austria and Switzerland celebrate Erntedankfest, the thanksgiving celebration of Germany. This occurs around harvest time, September or October, and is marked by church services, a parade, music and a fair.
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.
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.
Canadian Thanksgiving, or l’Action de grâce, was first celebrated in 1578. The spirit of the holiday is to give thanks and celebrate the harvest. It takes place on the second Monday in October.
Also called the Mid-Autumn Festival, the Moon Festival is a harvest celebration that takes place on the night of the full moon between September and October. The celebration focuses on three important concepts: gathering, thanksgiving and praying. The lantern is the symbol of the festival and is used to decorate cities and towns for the celebration. It usually ends up being sometime in September and is marked by a day off from work and school so families can gather and give thanks for the harvest and the full moon. In China, food is another medium for celebrating the moon. Mooncakes, Chinese pastries traditionally filled with seed paste and egg yolk, are a key part of China’s Mid-Autumn Festival.
In France people get very excited about mushroom-picking season, which spans from mid-August to mid-September. But if you take part, do so with caution. Every year there are an estimated 1,000 poisonings caused by mushrooms. And all across Europe, apple pancakes (which are really more like crepes) are frequently eaten in the fall. 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).
Another major celebration of fall is Germany’s Oktoberfest, the world’s largest folk festival. Oktoberfest runs for about two weeks in September, and features traditional Bavarian food, music, clothing, and lots of beer. Germans also gather items from nature in the fall. They often collect chestnuts, acorns and beechnuts, and make crafts out of them. In addition, Germans like to fly kites in autumn, as wind speeds pick up. As far as food goes, it’s all about the Kurbissuppe (pumpkin soup). Although their famous Beer Festival starts in late September, the festival culminates in October with the annual Böllerschießen celebration, which includes a lot of firearms and sparklers.
Ghana’s Homowo (“hooting at hunger”) Festival is celebrated by the Ga people of the Accra region of Ghana. The festival commemorates the period in history when there was a serious famine in the land. It usually takes place in August.
Originating from the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, Bonfire Night is also known as Guy Fawkes Night, and is celebrated in Great Britain. The Gunpowder Plot was a failed assassination attempt of James I by a cadre of provincial English Catholics, including Guy Fawkes. When James I survived, people lit bonfires in celebration. Two of the largest celebrations take place in Lewes and Glasgow.
The origins of Thanksgiving in Grenada, though considerably different from the American holiday's origins, are inextricably tied to the United States. Political turmoil in the island nation of Grenada culminated in a 1983 military coup and, ultimately, the execution of popular Prime Minister Maurice Bishop. The ensuing power vacuum left the country in chaos. Concerned about Cuba exerting communist influence on the country and the welfare of some 800 American medical students enrolled at a university on the island, President Ronald Reagan invaded the island on October 25, 1983.
Though the invasion was met with widespread global criticism, many Grenadians were grateful. Having learned of the American tradition, Grenadians put together Thanksgiving feasts for American troops across the country. Since the invasion, October 25 has been named Thanksgiving Day on the island. The national holiday of gratitude and remembrance is celebrated primarily in more urban areas across Grenada.
Known as “The Festival of Lights,” Diwali is an ancient Hindu festival celebrated in Autumn as determined by the Hindu Lunisolar calendar. The festival signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil. Animals are draped with marigold necklaces and blessed with vermillion. Dogs are particularly important because of their association with the Hindu god of death. Families light candles, set off fireworks, give gifts and make delicious meals to celebrate the holiday.
In the tiny town of Lisdoonvarna, Ireland, which has a population of 700 people, 10s of thousands of visitors visit every Fall. They are going there for the Matchmaking Festival, a month long event that has been around for 150 years. Come September, singles 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. The fun isn’t all for the adults though. Conkers is a traditional game played by children in the U.K. and Ireland, particularly during the autumn months. A conker is a hard, brown seed from a horse chestnut tree. British and Irish kids hang these seeds from a piece of string and then take turns trying to hit each other’s conkers.
Labor Thanksgiving Day, or Kinro Kansha No Hi, is celebrated in Japan on November 23rd. It is considered a time to commemorate labor and production and to give one another thanks. Labor Thanksgiving Day is a modern name for the ritual of Harvest Festival (Niinamesai). In the ritual, the Emperor makes the season's first offering of freshly harvested rice to the gods and then eats the rice himself. The history of Niinamesai goes back many centuries. After the World War II, Labor Thanksgiving Day was established to mark the fact that fundamental human rights were guaranteed and rights of workers were greatly expanded in the postwar constitution. A number of major events are held on this day.
In Kenya, the people gather together every year in November to celebrate their different cultures. Mombasa, which is known as the most inter-cultural city in Kenya, hosts a parade that shows off each African and Arabian culture that participates. In addition to the huge flocks of people who come to watch every year, locals themselves participate by participating in the parade, dressing up in traditional costume, or baking traditional foods from both cultures.
On morning of the Day of Chuseok, family members gather at their homes to hold memorial services (called Charye) in honor of their ancestors. It’s a celebration of the harvest and thanksgiving for the bounty of the earth. It is the nation’s biggest traditional holiday, celebrated in September. Many Koreans visit their hometowns to spend quality time with their family, as well as spend time with friends. The holiday also provides a good opportunity to enjoy traditional cultural experiences throughout Korea.
Liberia, which was colonized by former slaves, celebrates Thanksgiving on the first Thursday of November. It follows similar traditions to those of Thanksgiving Day in the US. Liberia was founded as a colony by the American Colonization Society between 1821 and 1822. It was intended to be a place for slaves freed in the United States that wanted to immigrate to Africa in search of more personal freedom and equality as citizens. The free men brought with them many of the United States traditions and kept them as to honor their humble beginnings. Thanksgiving Day is one of them.
The Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout Mexico. The celebration takes place October 31st and goes through November 2nd. Traditions associated with the holiday include building altars to remember the dead, making food offerings to the dead and caring for graves. The Catrina or female skeleton is a popular figure of the Day of the Dead. The celebration is important because it honors the dead while still celebrating life. One delicacy of the Fall season that they enjoy is called atole, and it’s a thick, hot drink made of ground field corn that comes in a wide array of flavors, including chocolate, fruit and even pecan.
Many Pilgrims lived and worked in the Netherlands city of Leiden before their voyage to the new world. The connection is still strong enough that every year, on the day of American Thanksgiving, people gather in a 900-year-old church known as Pieterskerk to celebrate the perseverance and good fortunes of the early American settlers.
A version of the American Thanksgiving has extended as far as the other side of the world, to the remote Norfolk Island, off the eastern coast of Australia. Home to just over 2,000 people, Norfolk Island was a British penal colony for some time and was frequented by whalers and traders from the United States. In the late 1800s, one such trader, Isaac Robinson, visited the island and held a traditional Thanksgiving at a local church. Robinson died soon thereafter, but the tradition has persisted among locals to this day. Today, residents celebrate Thanksgiving with a feast that is slightly different from the traditional feast, with pork and chicken and bananas, although there is pumpkin pie.
Fall is a time for great cultural experiences in Norway, be it art exhibitions, literature festivals, or intimate club concerts with future global popstars. The fall season is also a time for gathering together inside with hot chocolate and lit candles. The feeling of “kos”, the kind of instant happiness you get when you feel safe, warm, and good together – are very important when the days get shorter and cold rain drums against the windows. Another important aspect of the season: It’s harvesting time. The Norwegian food culture takes some subtle turns this time of year, favoring local ingredients and slow-cooked and rich dishes suited for a chillier climate. A traditional fall dish in Norway is farikal — a lamb and cabbage casserole that’s considered the national dish of the country.
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.
Eid al-Ahda is a religious holiday normally celebrated after each year’s Hajj. One of the big three festivals in Muslim culture, the day commemorates the story in the Old Testament when Abraham showed his obedience and trust to God by almost sacrificing his own son. For this reason, the day is also called the “Festival of Sacrifice.” People dress in their best clothes, sacrifice their best animal, if they are able, and give charitable donations to the poor.
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.
Wine is one of Spain’s biggest exports, and nowhere in the country is more famous for its wines than the region of La Rioja. Autumn is grape harvest season in Spain, and every year the city of Logroño celebrates this by hosting the Wine Harvest Festival at the end of September. The main event of course is the grape stomping or crushing, done the traditional way with bare feet. The first grape juice of the year is made as an offering to the Virgen de Valvanera, which is followed by bullfights, lots of music and dancing.
La Mercè is Barcelona’s biggest festival, which happens around September 24th each year. It honors one of the city’s two patron saints, La Mercè (Our Lady of Mercy), with a major celebration, featuring many Catalan traditions. There are more than 100 events during the festival, which include everything from concerts and dancing to circus performers and outdoor theatre.
Thailand and Laos
The Yi Peng festival is held throughout Thailand and some parts of Laos, and coincides with Loi Krathong. Traditionally, the people make decorated baskets, which are floated down a river for Loi Krathong. The basket is the “krathong.” To celebrate Yi Peng, people make sky lanterns and float them into the air. Additionally, people decorate their houses, shops and gardens with paper lanterns and candles.
Similar to China, the Vietnamese equivalent to American Thanksgiving is held on the 15th day of the eighth month on the lunar calendar. According to Vietnamese folklore, the holiday, known as Têt-Trung-Thu Festival or the Children’s Festival, is held as a way for parents, once busy with the harvest, to make amends with their children who may have felt neglected. While the origins of the holiday vary considerably from the American tradition, many of the fundamentals are the same. The Vietnamese use the holiday to give thanks and celebrate with family.
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.
Fall is such a spectacular time during the year. It’s no surprise that people all over the world celebrate during the Fall. It sounds like regardless of where you are on the globe, you can expect music, good food, family, decorating and celebrations when the weather starts to cool down and the leaves start falling.
If you’d like a really fun treat, check out this blog on fun Autumn recipes from all over the world. Especially if you feel a little pumpkin-spiced out, it might be fun to try out some of the traditional dishes made in other countries this Fall. You might find something you will have to make every year from here on out.
© 2018 Victoria Van Ness