Autumn traditions from around the world

As fall truly begins to set in and the leaves begin to fall, Americans have two holidays on their minds: Halloween and Thanksgiving.  While we are gorging ourselves on free candy and a feast of Turkey and stuffing, the rest of the world celebrates in their own unique ways. Here are some fascinating festivals and holidays that are celebrated around Oct. and Nov. in other countries.

Germany: Oktoberfest

Sept. 23- Oct. 3

Although this famous Beer Festival starts in late Sept., the festival culminates on Oct. 3 this year with the annual Böllerschießen celebration, which includes a lot of firearms and sparklers. Although the festival likes to maintain a family-friendly atmosphere by having “family days” and keeping music down to a certain level, public drunkenness has become so common that people who pass out on the street have a name: Bierleichen (“beer corpses”). Still, the fear of passing out does not easily stop most people—festival participants consume over seven million liters of beer altogether.

India: Diwali

Date: Wednesday, Oct. 26

A five-day festival, each day with its own special celebration and meaning, Diwali is called the “Festival of Lights.” The holiday also marks the Hindu New Year.  The people of India celebrate the goddess Lakshmi coming to visit their houses, since she brings wealth and prosperity. They prepare by cleaning their homes, setting off firecrackers and fireworks, and lighting rows of lamps around the doors, walls and rooftops.  People exchange gifts, don new clothes, and overall express a general feeling of joy for the upcoming year.

Mexico: Día de los Muertos

Date: Wednesday, Nov. 2

Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a day to pray for loved ones or family who have passed away. Though connected with the holiday All Saints’ Day from other countries, Mexico’s celebration has origins tracing back to ancient Aztec festivals.  Families build altars for their ancestors and decorate them, often lavishly.  This is also a time to clean up the graves and visit.  People make chocolate and sugar skulls, as the skeleton is an important symbol of the day.

Saudi Arabia: Eid al-Ahda

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.

Kenya: Mombasa Carnival

Wednesday, Nov. 26

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.


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