Quintessential Fall — How Other Countries Celebrate Autumn

We know Americans have an obsession with fall, but how do people around the world ring in the season? (It goes far beyond Pumpkin Spice Lattes!)
field of pumpkins with sunlight filtering through fall traditions around the world

It’s the millennial idea of the American Dream: you’re dressed in a trendy sweater, taking Instagram pics of the colorful fall leaves while sipping a steamy Pumpkin Spice Latte (PSL, for short) from Starbucks. When it comes to fall traditions around the world, most Americans welcome autumn like a kid on Christmas morning (just replace the cookies with apple cider doughnuts). The season has come to be defined by the food, drinks, clothing, activities and events associated with it — from apple and pumpkin picking to Ugg boots. And it all culminates in the holiday celebrated by an estimated 148 million Americans last year: Halloween.

Ok, we get it. Americans really love fall. But what about other countries?

The short answer: not so much. In some countries, like Spain for example, there aren’t four distinct seasons, so autumn isn’t really celebrated. In others, like Germany, people get excited by fall and the activities that go along with it. And many countries fall somewhere in between. But it doesn’t seem like any country is quite as obsessed as the United States.

Here are some ways nations that do celebrate recognize their own fall traditions around the world.

Fall Festivals And Events

Across the United States, various fall festivals and Halloween-related events add to the excitement of the season. In other countries, public events are the primary means of celebrating autumn.

One of the earliest of these celebrations is the Mid-Autumn Festival (also known as the Moon Festival), which is held on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunar calendar. It usually ends up being sometime in September and is marked by a day off from work and school so families can gather and give thanks for the harvest and the full moon.

Another major celebration of fall is Germany’s Oktoberfest — the world’s largest folk festival. Oktoberfest runs for about two weeks, counterintuitively starting in September, and features traditional Bavarian food, music and clothing. And lots of beer.

Several fall traditions around the world take place in October and November, including Diwali — the Hindu festival of lights. The five-day celebration of the triumph of good over evil occurs in October or November, depending on the Hindu lunar calendar. Diwali traditions include lighting candles, admiring large fireworks displays and feasting.

On November 1, just after Halloween in the States, Mexico and other Latin American countries observe Dia de los Muertos (“Day of the Dead”). Rather than mourning those who have passed away, participants celebrate the lives of the deceased with food, drinks, parties and activities their loved ones enjoyed when they were alive. Skeletons and skulls are prevalent symbols during Dia de los Muertos and appear in the form of dolls, masks and candy.

Four days after Latin Americans pay tribute to the lives of the deceased, people in the U.K. celebrate just one death. Remember, remember the fifth of November. Sound familiar? It’s part of a poem about Guy Fawkes and his plot to blow up London’s Parliament on November 5, 1605. Fawkes was arrested and executed before he could carry out his plot. Every year on what has come to be known as Guy Fawkes Day (or Bonfire Night), Brits commemorate Fawkes’ execution by throwing straw effigies of him into bonfires, holding parades and setting off fireworks (to symbolize the explosions that never occurred in 1605).

Fall Traditions Around The World

A number of recreational activities, for adults and children alike, are specifically associated with autumn. For Americans, these come in the form of apple and pumpkin picking, haunted houses and hayrides, viewing the colorful foliage, and more. Some other countries have similar traditions, but many are vastly different.

In France, for instance, people get very excited about mushroom-picking season, which spans from mid-August to mid-September. But if you take part, do so with caution — every year there are an estimated 1,000 poisonings caused by mushrooms. Germans also gather items from nature in the fall. They often collect chestnuts, acorns and beechnuts, and make crafts out of them. In addition, Germans like to fly kites in autumn, as wind speeds pick up.

Conkers is a traditional game played by children in the U.K. and Ireland, particularly during the autumn months. A conker is a hard, brown seed from a horse chestnut tree. British and Irish kids hang these seeds from a piece of string and then take turns trying to hit each other’s conkers. Sounds a bit nutty!

Classic Fall Food And Drinks

It makes sense that popular fall food and drinks consist of crops that are in season during fall. Apples and pumpkins, or at least apple and pumpkin flavoring, can be found in many dishes in the U.S. and around the world. In Germany, it’s all about the Kurbissuppe (pumpkin soup). In Spain, buñuelos de calabaza (pumpkin fritters) are a popular fall treat. They’re essentially pumpkin doughnuts and are often served with a cup of thick Spanish hot chocolate for dipping. When it comes to apples, there is also no shortage of delicious autumn dishes. Across Europe, apple pancakes (which are really more like crepes) are frequently eaten in the fall. Apple empanadas are all the rage in South American countries.

That list barely scratches the surface of delicious apple and pumpkin dishes, but some of the more obscure fall foods are even more interesting. A traditional fall dish in Norway is farikal — a lamb and cabbage casserole that’s considered the national dish of the country. In China, food is another medium for celebrating the moon. Mooncakes, Chinese pastries traditionally filled with seed paste and egg yolk, are a key part of China’s Mid-Autumn Festival. And the beverage of the season that is least like anything we have in the United States comes from Mexico. It’s called atole and it’s a thick, hot drink made of ground field corn that comes in a wide array of flavors, including chocolate, fruit and even pecan.

Now, learn to talk to someone about your favorite fall activities in a new language.
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