Fall is the season for back-to-school and sweaters and Pumpkin Spice Lattes. It’s also a season of festivals. During fall we celebrate the harvest, get ready for the coming winter, and so much more. These celebrations take many forms around the world, resulting in some amazing festivals that are totally travel-worthy. Here are the top 10 fall festivals from around the world.
1. Diwali – India
Diwali is the Hindu Festival of Light and is celebrated across India and many Southeast Asian countries with large Hindi populations. Sometimes called Deepavali, this festival celebrates the triumph of light over darkness. It’s symbolic of good overcoming evil, knowledge overcoming ignorance, truth overcoming deceit. The preparations and rituals of Diwali take up four to six days, although the festival itself always falls on the “no moon” day of the Hindu calendar. Diwali is in honor of Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of prosperity and wealth. The celebrations include gift-giving, story-telling, prayers, and, of course, fireworks. It is the Festival of Lights, after all. This is one of the fall festivals we love most!
2. Oktoberfest – Munich, Germany
On October 12th, 1810, Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese were married and they threw a lavish party to celebrate. The townspeople of Munich were invited, and Oktoberfest was born. All these years later, the wedding celebration has morphed into the largest beer festival in the world. Last year, 7 million people attended Oktoberfest. Getting a reservation is tricky but worth it. Who doesn’t want to get dressed up, eat delicious German food, and drink liters of cold beer? Oktoberfest dates vary each year, but usually it falls somewhere in late September and early October.
3. Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta – Albuquerque, New Mexico
What started out as an attempt to beat the then world-record of 19 hot air balloons launched at once, Albuquerque’s International Balloon Fiesta has grown to exponential proportions. After allowing the number of registered balloons to grow unchecked since 1973, the Fiesta Board limited it to 750 balloons in 2001 and then again to 600 in 2009. Still, that’s a lot of hot air balloons in one place and the effect is awe-inspiring. The balloons are the main event of the festival, but they’ve opened the door for featured exhibits sharing New Mexico’s unique culture and history with the thousands of tourists who flock to Albuquerque. It takes place every year from October 6th through the 14th. You can be sure this is one of the greatest fall festivals.
4. National Apple Harvest Festival – Arendtsville, Pennsylvania
Does anything say fall more than the smell of freshly baked apple pie or that first sip of warm apple cider on a crisp day? The National Apple Harvest Festival has cider by the barrel and more pie than you could ever eat. They’ve also got apple jams, jellies, and sauces as well as candied apples, apple pancakes, apple art and plenty of other non-apple food, beverages, and entertainment. In many ways, it’s a good, old-fashioned harvest fair. Hay rides, pie eating contests, and scarecrows are just the tip of the iceberg. The National Apple Harvest Festival is held the first two weekends of October.
5. Halloween – Salem, Massachusetts
You can celebrate Halloween anywhere in the U.S., of course, but if you want an extra spooky, witchy good time, head to Salem. The witch trials of the 1690s are in the distant past but Salem still retains its reputation as “Witch City.” It’s a reputation they’ve embraced and never more-so than at Halloween. Travel back in time by visiting the historical sites around the city, including the Witch House and the Salem cemetery, to really get a feel for the hysteria and tragedy of the witch trials. Then lighten things up by attending any of the events hosted by Haunted Happenings or get spooky at the Hawthorne Costume Ball. Halloween Night ends with a firework spectacular.
6. Mid-Autumn Festival – China
Also called the Moon Festival, this harvest celebration dates back to the 1600s BCE. Originally the festival was held to give thanks to the mountain deities for a prosperous harvest. In time, it became associated with the Moon Goddess Chang’e instead. A legend explains the origins of the tributes to Chang’e as offerings of love from the mortal hero Hou Yi. The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated with brightly colored lanterns and the making and sharing of mooncakes. Like many harvest festivals around the world, it’s a time to be thankful and get together with family. Because the festival is part of the Chinese calendar, the dates vary every year, but it usually falls sometime between late September and mid-October. This is one of our favorite fall festivals.
7. Dia de los Muertos – Mexico
Day of the Dead certainly sounds spooky, but it’s actually a time for love, family, and remembrance. Originally held at the end of the summer, Dia de los Muertos now falls between October 31st and November 2nd to coincide with the Western All Saints’ Day. During Dia de los Muertos, families come together to remember departed loved ones, believing that on this day the barrier between the living and the dead thins so that their loved ones can come visit them. Many aspects of the festival are personal and private, including the lighting of incense at alters set to remember the dead. But other parts of the celebration are much livelier. Parades and dressing up in the colorful sugar skull face paint are common. In larger cities like Mexico City, the Dia de los Muertos turn-out can be quite the spectacle.
8. Loi Krathong – Thailand and Laos
The words Loi Krathong can be translated to mean “to float a small basket.” That small basket is often made of leaves and holds a small portion of food and sometimes a candle. Loi Krathong is a full moon festival. On the night of the full moon, the krathong are released onto a river, canal, or pond with a wish. Origins of the festival aren’t entirely clear: some say the festival started as a ritual to appease water spirits; some think it was a Brahmanical festival adopted by Buddhists. Either way, it’s now a time to let go of the past and celebrate new beginnings. The exact dates of Loi Krathong change from year to year.
9. Guy Fawkes Night – United Kingdom
Remember, remember, the 5th of November. Also called Bonfire Night or Fireworks Night, this was originally a celebration of the failed attempt on the life of King James I, carrying lots of anti-Catholic sentiment. Nowadays it’s just a social celebration with fireworks and bonfires without any focus on the original meaning. Which is a good thing, really. Enjoying some fireworks and a good bonfire without the burning of hate-dolls is preferable. This is one of the best fall festivals.
10. Semana Musical Llao Llao – Bariloche, Argentina
Semana Musical Llao Llao celebrates classical music amidst the natural splendor of the Andes foothills of Bariloche. The festival is held in early October at the Llao Llao hotel which overlooks both Lake Moreno and Nahuel Huapi Lakes. Bariloche is mostly known for being the Aspen of Argentina with incredible skiing in the winter and whitewater rafting during spring and summer. This music festival is less high adventure and more highbrow. After a day of tramping through the Nahuel Huapi National Park, relax to the strains of classical music or relax in the Llao Llao Hotel’s world-renown spas.