Updated: Oct 31, 2018
When moving around the world, keeping traditions from home is an important way we can keep close ties to our culture and feel at home wherever we are. Joining in with local traditions is also a fun way to connect with the culture of your new home, which you can add to your family traditions.
During this cooling season, many cultures around the world take time to give thanks for the abundant harvests and for loved ones they hold dear. These celebrations can be religious in manner or secular, but they all have one thing in common: they are basis for fun festivities and joyous thanksgiving!
1. Scotland: Halloween - 31st October
Halloween is very popular holiday in many countries as the Christian All Hallows Eve, the evening before All Saints’ Day. It was traditionally believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints' Day, and All Hallows' Eve provided one last chance for the dead to gain vengeance on their enemies before moving to the next world. In order to avoid being recognized by any soul that might be seeking such vengeance, people would wear masks or costumes to disguise their identities.
On Halloween in Scotland children get dressed in costumes and going ‘trick or treating’ is called ‘guising’ (as in ‘going in disguise’) and have to perform jokes or songs in return for sweets. The general ettiequte is that it's ok to knock of people's doors who have carved pumpkins outside or you know them. Also traditionally neeps (turnips) are carved out with a candle inside and carried as lanterns instead of pumpkins. They are a lot easier for children to carry and use a lantern!
The story of the original ‘Jack-O-Lantern’ dates back as far back as the 1500s in Ireland. A blacksmith called Stingy Jack made a deal with the Devil to never claim his soul—but when he died, God wouldn’t let him into Heaven either. So Jack was doomed to walk the Earth for all eternity, with only a burning coal to light his way—which he carried in a turnip he had carved out. He roams the world to this day as "Jack of the Lantern," or "Jack-O’-Lantern."
2. USA: Thanksgiving - 4th Thursday in November
Thanksgiving in America has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789. 90 Native Americans and the 50 surviving Pilgrims from the Mayflower, celebrated the "First Thanksgiving" after their first harvest in the New World in October 1621. Due to the Pilgrims disapproving of the celebration of Christmas, Thanksgiving is a bigger deal than Christmas in America.
Today Thanksgiving traditions in America include, a large turkey dinner, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, or watching American Football. It is also a time for charity and providing food for the poor with most communities providing dinners or collecting food for those in need. But mainly it is a holiday for friends and family to get together with most businesses giving Thanksgiving as a paid holiday. As a result it is one of the busiest (and therefore expensive) times to travel in the year.
3. Mexico: Day of the Dead - 1st - 2nd November
Thanks to the Disney Pixar film Coco, most of us have now heard of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) as a celebration to honour family and loved ones who have died on the first two days of November. Although at first glance, it may seem macabre, the festival rooted in Aztec culture (but also coincides with All Saint's and All Souls Day), is actually a fun (and colourful) celebration of the importance of life.
During this holiday, altars are constructed in memory of passed loved ones. The deceased’s favorite foods and drinks, as well as sugar skulls, flowers, candles, and clothing are placed around the altar to celebrate the lives of the dead. Gravesites are also decorated and cemeteries come alive as family members pay tribute to their fallen loved ones. In addition to Mexico, Dia de los Muertos is celebrated throughout Latin America.
4. Korea: Chuseok – Late September or Early October
Chuseok is a Korean harvest festival. The days that it is celebrated change every year as it is determined by the lunar calendar. It begins on the 14th day of the 8th lunar month, so it is celebrated either at the end of summer or the beginning of autumn.
During Chuseok many Koreans go back to their hometowns to spend time with family and friends while giving thanks to their ancestors and eating delicious food. It is tradition to visit ancestral graves and honour the dead. Koreans spend three days reuniting with family, playing games, and eating songpyeon, rice cakes with a sweet filling. There are plenty of opportunities to let loose, too: people attend traditional wrestling matches, musical competitions, dances, and of course, feasts.
While this is a holiday to honor family ancestors, Chuseok is a special time for spreading happiness and togetherness amongst those you love.
5. Ghana: Festival of the Yams - August or September
Homowo is an African festival dedicated to the hopefulness that the crops will be plentiful for the coming year and no one will experience famine. Celebrated in August or September, the Festival of the Yams is centred around the new yam harvest. Families are brought together, thrilled and hopeful (and slightly competitive!) to be the group with the largest crop. Everyone in the village comes together and shares their bounty, and yams are the prized dish out of all the harvested vegetables. During this harvest festival, the villages rejoice by dancing and singing with animal masks, acknowledging the end of the rainy season and desiring a fruitful harvest to last well into the new year.
6. UK: Fireworks/Bonfire Night - 5th of November
Remember Remember the 5th of November
The Gunpowder Treason and plot;
I know of no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.
If you are in the UK around the 5thof November you’ll notice in almost all communities from large cities to tiny villages, there are fireworks displays and bonfires, where the grown ups may be enjoying warmed cider and humburgers, while trying to ensure the kids don’t get burnt swinging sparklers around! It is one of the few occasions in the year where the whole community gathers, where you bump into friends and neighbours you haven’t seen for ages. But for many it may seem like an odd tradition throwing a scarecrow representing someone called Guy on to a huge bonfire while small children cheer. And when you hear that it’s celebrating a failed terrorist attempt to blow up the houses of parliament by religious extremists, you may think it’s about a James Bond film, rather than a 400 year old chapter in British history.
In 1605, a group of Catholics conspired to assassinate England’s Protestant monarch, King James I, and install a Cathlolic monarch. Guy Fawkes was a Catholic soldier participating in this conspiracy (called the Gunpowder Plot) to blow up British Parliament and kill the king. But in early November, Fawkes was caught and arrested while guarding a stockpile of gunpowder, and the plot was foiled. So every November 5, thousands of British people celebrate Guy Fawkes Night by lighting bonfires, burning effigies of Fawkes, and watching fireworks.
7. Germany: Oktoberfest – third weekend of September and ends the first Sunday in October
Oktoberfest is about more than drinking beer. Started in 1810 as a royal wedding celebration for a Bavarian prince and his princess, Oktoberfest has grown into an international fall festival, with events taking place every September to October in cities around the world. The world’s largest Oktoberfest welcomes 6-7 million spectators in Munich, Germany each year. Oktoberfest is not just for drinking crazy amounts of beer, in recent years it is becoming a more family friendly festival with parades, music, games, and munch on lots of pretzels and authentic German sausages.
No need for you to book a trip to Germany to get in on the action as you can probably find a smaller event in a city near you.
8. Thailand: Loi Krathong – November
Each November, on the evening of the full moon of the 12th month in the traditional Thai lunar calendar,Thai people celebrate Loi Krathong, a festival of light to honour the goddess of water. They release candles on small floating vessels called krathongs, to rivers, lakes, ponds, and even swimming pools, in celebration of hope and light. In Bangkok, you can buy krathongs made of banana leaves, flowers, coconuts, or styrofoam, and fireworks, music, and dance performances give the annual event a festive feeling.
In Northern Thailand, people celebrate a similar event Yi Peng, in which they release floating lanterns into the sky instead of onto the water.The Yi Peng festival is held throughout Thailand and some parts of Laos, and coincides with Loi Krathong. Additionally, people decorate their houses, shops and gardens with paper lanterns and candles. This festival of lights is an opportunity for Buddhists to pay homage to the Buddha and ask for blessings
9. India: Diwali – 5 days in October or November
As India’s festival of lights, Diwali is a celebration of abundance and light over darkness. The holiday also marks the Hindu New Year and falls in either October or November each year, depending on the cycle of the moon. It's observed on the 15th day of Kartikthe holiest month in the Hindu lunar calendar.
For five days Hindu Indians (as well as Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists) light oil lamps and candles around their houses, set off colourful fireworks, design vibrant patterns of sand, exchange gifts, buy new clothes, and lanterns are lit aross cities and released into the air as a symbol of welcome and overall express a general feeling of joy for the upcoming year. They pray to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth to visit their home, hoping for good luck and abundance in the year ahead.
10. China: Moon Festival - 15th day of the 8th Lunar month, Sometime in September or October
For thousands of years, Chinese people have celebrated the full moon during theMid-Autumn Festival. It takes place on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, the night of the full moon between September and October. The celebration focuses on three important concepts: gathering with family, thanksgiving and praying.
It is believed that flowers will fall from the sky on the night of the moon's birthday, and those who saw them fall would be blessed with great abundance.
People all over China light incense sticks, spend time with family, and give each other mooncakes (sweet round pastries filled with red bean or lotus seed paste). If you’re not in China but want to celebrate, look for mooncakes at your local Asian bakery.
Where are the best places to celebrate your favourite Autumn events where you live? Add them in the RelocateGuru app to help others find them and join in the fun! Download it today!
What traditions do you take with you when you move home? I would love to hear about them in the comments below.