Written by Zoe Manoukian
Many Americans find fall to be a nostalgic time. The changing of the leaves and cooling of the air are sure to evoke strong memories of the autumns of yore. These especially bucolic months remind us of life’s cyclicity and nature’s stunning force. Understandably, autumn is recognized as a powerful time of change and growth around the world. Below are five different autumn traditions that exist outside of North America.
Mid-autumn Festival: The Mid-autumn Festival occurs on the 15th day of the eighth lunar month in Singapore, according to Bonny Tan of Singapore Infopedia. The festival began over 2,000 years ago and initially celebrated the harvest. Today, participants exchange mooncakes and lanterns in celebration of the moon.
New Yam Festival: Nigerian novelist Chinua Achebe wrote in “Things Fall Apart”: “The pounded yam dish placed in front of the partakers of the festival was as big as a mountain. People had to eat their way through it all night and it was only during the following day when the pounded yam ‘mountain’ had gone down that people on one side recognized and greeted their family members on the other side of the dish for the first time.” This passage is referencing the New Yam Festival, which takes place across Igboland, Nigeria. The festival is a celebration of cultivation.
Señor de los Milagros (Lord of Miracles): An earthquake in 1655 devastated the Pachacamilla district of Peru, yet miraculously left a depiction of Christ on the cross undamaged. The celebration of the lasting depiction is one of Peru’s most important and well attended festivals to this day. During the celebration, processors dress head to toe in purple as a sign of repentance and display similar images of Jesus on the cross to that which survived the earthquake.
Oktoberfest: Oktoberfest is the world’s largest folk festival. The festivity began as a horse race in 1810 and celebrated the marriage of Prince Regent Ludwig of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen. As wedding festivities eventually came to a close, attendees agreed that they wanted to continue celebrating. Even today millions of young and old people travel far and wide to attend the now massive drinking festival, during which many attendees attempt to dress, eat and drink German.
Fête de la Châtaine: The Var village of Provence celebrates their abundance of chestnuts every October. Each Sunday, participants find creative twists to enjoy their most popular crop. If you find yourself in Provence during this time, you can try chestnuts of various varieties and prepared in any number of ways—roasted, preserved, pasted, baked and sweetened! Americans tend to associate chestnuts with wintertime, but Provence has made a very compelling case for enjoying the delicious nut during autumn.