Autumn celebrations around the world

From baking pumpkin pie to celebrating the moon, here's how autumn is celebrated across the globe. 

Autumn is that much-loved season providing cool crisp air for cosy walks in chunky knits, the excitement of Halloween and colourful, changing foliage. It’s a favourite time of year for Brits, so you may not be surprised to learn that this is a sentiment appreciated worldwide.

Countries around the world have their own special ways of celebrating autumn and the experts at leading language learning app Babbel are here to tell us more.

 

Festivals, celebrations and events

panda light installation at moon festival celebrations
A light installation to celebrate the Moon Festival

Here in the UK, we're familiar with Harvest Festival, which celebrates a successful harvest and dates back to pagan times. The festivities typically involve seasonal decorations, singing, and more, but there are different versions around the world.

The Mid-Autumn Festival, also known as the Moon Festival, is one of the biggest and most widely celebrated harvest festivals in the world, with people from many Asian countries including China, Malaysia, and the Philippines, amongst others, marking the day with festive celebrations. It is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunar calendar, which typically lands in September and will take place on 1st October this year. The festival is celebrated as a public holiday, with schools and offices closing their doors so that families can gather and give thanks for the harvest and full moon.

Oktoberfest celebrations

Oktoberfest is another major autumn celebration that, while originating in Germany, has inspired local versions around the globe. The world’s largest folk festival, counterintuitively begins in September and runs for about two weeks, featuring traditional Bavarian food, music, clothing, and most importantly, lots of beer! The name comes from the history of the Wiesn: The occasion for the first Oktoberfest in 1810, which was the wedding of the Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese of Sachsen-Hildburghausen.

There are also several cultural and religious events that occur throughout October and November. To experience multicultural autumn, try celebrating Dia de Los Muertos on the 1st and 2nd November—a Mexican celebration that honours the lives of those who have passed away with food, drinks and activities that those loved ones enjoyed when they were alive. Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, is another spiritual celebration of the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, and knowledge over ignorance, which falls on 14th November this year.

 

Autumnal activities

pumpkin patch

For Brits, autumn typically means roast dinners by an open fire, the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot and cosying up with our loved ones to watch the fireworks on Guy Fawkes Night. In North America, however, these activities come in the form of apple and pumpkin picking, with many pumpkin patches also featuring corn mazes, haunted houses and hayrides.

Thanksgiving is also an important celebration for Americans that takes place in late November every year, with seasonal dishes like yams smothered in marshmallows and pumpkin pies always having a place at the Thanksgiving dinner table. Walks, hikes and trips to see the changing foliage are also hugely popular, with locations like Asheville, North Carolina, the White Mountains in New Hampshire, and the Catskills in New York, boasting of some of the most beautiful, must-see autumn scenery around.

woman with hands full of mushrooms from foraging

Interestingly, many other countries also enjoy foraging for seasonal treats during the autumn months. In France, for instance, the mushroom-picking season runs from mid-August to mid-September with thousands of people taking to the forests to participate. Not too dissimilar to how Americans pick pumpkins and Brits can be found collecting conkers, Germans often collect chestnuts, acorns and beechnuts throughout autumn. Keen to make the most of the season’s weather, Germans can also be found flying kites whilst enjoying the changing scenery and powerful winds.

 

Seasonal foods and drinks

pumpkin spiced latte in mug

Many Brits feel that autumn has arrived when we’re able to pick up a Pumpkin Spice Latte and a slice of warm apple pie—a trend started by our American friends that we’ve happily taken on. When looking at seasonal snacks from around the world, it seems that apple and pumpkin are universally loved.

In Germany, it’s all about Kurbissuppe (below), a traditional soup made of pumpkins that can be served warm or cold. In Spain, buñuelos de calabaza, a pumpkin fritter Westerners can compare to doughnuts, are popular autumn treats that are often served with a cup of thick, Spanish hot chocolate for dipping.

a bowl of Kurbissuppe soup

When it comes to apples, there’s no shortage of delicious autumn dishes across Europe. Apple pancakes, which are comparable to crepes, are frequently eaten throughout autumn in many countries; including, France, Germany, and Russia. Perhaps inspired by their savoury counterparts, apple empanadas are all the rage in Spain and South American countries like Chile.

Some countries get quite creative. A traditional favourite in Norway is farikal, a lamb and cabbage casserole that’s considered the national dish of the country. In China, food is used as another means to celebrate the moon: mooncakes, Chinese pastries traditionally filled with seed paste and egg yolk, are a key part of China’s Mid-Autumn Festival. Meanwhile, Mexico is famed for its autumn-centric beverage called atole: a thick, hot drink made of ground field corn that comes in a wide array of flavours, including chocolate, fruit and pecan. Getting hungry yet?

 

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