When traveling, you’re going to encounter new festivals, events, and holidays, whether you’re teaching in China or studying abroad in Ireland. Although many countries celebrate versions of Halloween, there are also totally different fall traditions that you’ll get to experience.
We would like to kindly remind travelers that many celebrations have deep spiritual significance. As an outsider observing or partaking in these traditions, it is important to be respectful both to the historic meanings as well as the locals celebrating them. You are first and foremost a guest in someone else’s culture.
With that said, here are some fall celebrations from around the world.
The Yulan Festival roughly translates to the Hungry Ghost festival in English. It is believed that on this fifteenth day of the seventh month on the lunar calendar, spirits roam the earth for food and money. This celebrated by burning paper offerings and leaving food outside. Grasshoppers in dragonflies are believed to be a reincarnation of humans who have passed away. Another superstition is to avoid taking pictures during the event or your image will contain a spooky figure.
These two festivals fall on the same day in November, but these are two separate events. Yi Peng, or the “Festival of Lights” entails sending a paper lantern into the sky, symbolically releasing any bad luck from the previous year.
Rewind to a bit earlier and you’ll experience Loi Krathong. During this event, people decorate leaf-made boats with colorful flowers and float them down the river, along with a little prayer for good fortune. There’s also a parade, dance shows, and firecrackers.
If you’re going to be in Chaing Mai for the celebrations, be prepared for the intense crowd. After all, each one of those floating lights you see in pictures is being released by an individual.
Ironically, authentic Oktoberfest begins in September. Originally, the 16-day celebration started as a royal wedding party in Munich. Now, over six million people make their way to attend the food and beer tents while sometimes dressed in traditional clothing. There are different activities scheduled throughout the duration, so research the schedule if you are making a special visit just for the event.
If you’re attending high school abroad in Germany, you will probably experience the Feast of St. Martin on November 11th. Though this holiday is celebrated in many European countries, in Germany this Christian-rooted holiday is celebrated by singing in the street while holding paper lanterns, followed by a dinner of suckling pig.
The Kawasaki Halloween Parade is truly a showcase of creepy creativity. This newer tradition spans 1.5 km (about 1 mile) where participants dress up in elaborate costumes. However, this isn’t something you can simply attend. There is a maximum of 2,500 people allowed and tickets run out fast! Participants have to register months in advance.
Samhain, an ancient Celtic tradition, is said to be the root of what is considered Halloween today. There are bonfires, festivities, and perhaps what is most notable is a fruitcake called Barmbrack that acts as a fortune-telling game. The loaf contains tokens that signify a meaning, such as wealth or marriage.
In Mexico and some Central American countries, Día de Muertos is a day honoring family members who have died. This is a lively celebration full of bright colors and food. Ofrendas (offerings) are decorated with marigolds, skulls, and things the loved one enjoyed.
You might hear this three day holiday referred to as the “Cambodian Water Festival.” This non-religious holiday is meant to celebrate all the benefits of water as a resource, specifically at the end of the rainy season. Boats are raced in the river and free concerts are given in the streets.
This celebration, similar to Día de Muertos, celebrates those who have passed away. This is a national holiday where school, stores, and government offices are closed. Cemeteries are beautifully decorated with flowers and red candles. Families feast together over a large meal and have an extra place set at the dinner table in hopes the spirit of a loved one will come home.