10 Global Fall Harvest Festivals to Ring In Autumn
Bountiful harvests, gleaming moons and…elegant olive oil? All across the world, cultures and countries celebrate autumn — and its interesting edible and lunar offerings — in a variety of ways. Fall is a season of preparation, and throughout history different groups have created and embraced different festivals and holidays that commemorate successful agricultural harvests. But it’s also a time of reflection and appreciation for everything from family values to the moon itself, as these unique global festivals demonstrate.
Asogli Te Za (Asogli Yam Festival) — Ghana
Asogli Te Za celebrates the yam harvest and the cultural heritage of the Asogli people in Ghana’s Volta Region. In 2018, the name was changed to Asogli Te Za to better reflect the area’s culture and history, but the festival still focuses on one particularly important tuber: the yam.
Asogli legend has it that, many years ago, a hunter discovered a yam while out looking for food during a famine. Instead of bringing it home, he buried it in a forest — and when he returned later on, he found that it had grown and could feed many more people. Yams are a particularly important crop to Asogli people, and this origin story explains exactly why.
During Asogli Te Za, people make offerings of boiled and mashed yams to the gods as a show of thanks for the bountiful harvest. They also pray for good health and prosperity after offering their yams, and villages begin planning for the next farming season.
Chuseok — South Korea
Chuseok is one of South Korea’s most significant holidays. Based on the lunar calendar, it typically takes place in September or October and is a time when families get together and thank their ancestors for providing enough food to eat. Chuseok lasts three days, with most people traveling back to their hometowns to show appreciation for the fall agricultural harvest and spend time with family.
Chuseok is all about food, and several dishes are associated with the holiday. Songpyeon are bite-sized rice cakes filled with red beans, chestnuts and sesame seeds that are said to resemble the harvest moon. Jeon is an egg pancake that incorporates sweet potato, zucchini, fish and other vegetables that are then pan-fried to perfection. Galbijjim is a heavier meal with mixed vegetables and braised beef and served with rice; it’s a warming dish that signals the arrival of autumn’s cooler temperatures.
Erntedankfest — Germany
Also called Erntedank, this autumn harvest celebration occurs in September or October, depending on the region. In Germany, Erntedank typically takes place on the first Sunday in October, but there’s generally no official date. Protestant and Catholic churches usually sponsor Erntedankfest in larger cities and incorporate a choir and a sermon into the festivities.
Some Erntendanfest traditions include displaying seasonal fruits and vegetables, displaying baked bread and dressing a church altar in wheat crowns. Many communities also elect a Harvest Queen who wears a wreath made from wheat and attends a parade.
Jour de l’Action de Grâce — Canada
In Canada, Jour de l’Action de Grâce, or Day of Giving Thanks, takes place on the second Monday of October. Like Thanksgiving in the United States, this “Canadian Thanksgiving” commemorates a good harvest and serves as an opportunity for people to reflect on the blessings of the year. Food served during Thanksgiving often varies between provinces. In Newfoundland and Labrador, souper jiggs, a corned beef and cabbage dish, takes the place of turkey. Butternut squash bisque, roasted maple orange-glazed turkey and caramelized apples are popular choices in Quebec.
Monti Fest — India
In the Konkani language in southwestern India, Monti is the Konkani name for Mother Mary. Monti Fest is an important celebration in Mangalorean Catholic, Roman Catholic Brahmin and Goan communities and takes place on September 8.
Primarily a harvest feast, Monti incorporates rituals of blessing new crops. In the days leading up to the holiday, people of all ages make offerings of large bouquets to Mother Mary. On the day of the celebration, they then bring freshly harvested corn into church, singing hymns and blessing the corn in the process. After the corn has been blessed, everyone in attendance receives some to eat along with other recently harvested crops from their gardens.
Mid-Autumn Moon Festivals — East Asia
Revelers across China, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries celebrate the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival around the 15th day of the eighth month of the Chinese lunar calendar. Converting to the Gregorian calendar, this holiday usually takes place in September or early October. In Vietnam, it’s a children’s day, while In China, it’s a time for families to reunite and feast together.
In China, during the festival, people eat mooncakes, duck, grapes, pears and other foods to show thanks for a productive rice harvest. They also host moon-viewing parties, sitting outside and snacking while appreciating the glowing beauty of the full moon — which is said to be at its brightest this time of year.
In Vietnam, this harvest festival is called Tet Trung Thu. It focuses on children, and many of its customs arose when parents wanted to spend more time with their children at the end of the harvest season. It takes place during the full moon, which is said to represent the fullness and prosperity of life. Children carry colorful lanterns shaped like frogs, butterflies, fish and stars during the holiday’s parade procession.
In Japanese, “tsukimi” means “looking at the moon,” and it’s also the name of the country’s autumn moon-viewing holiday. Tsukimi takes place in September, which is said to be the best month to view the lunar light. This tradition dates back to the 700s, when aristocrats spent time listening to music and reciting poetry during moonlit partie. Traditional tsukimi foods include dango, small white rice dumplings and dishes topped with raw eggs. It’s also customary to snack on persimmons, taro, grapes and pears in honor of the harvest.
Olivagando — Italy
Some of the best olive oil in the world comes from Italy, and Italians show their appreciation with a festival that commemorates all things related to this precious commodity. Olivagando takes place in the Mediterranean country over the course of two days and celebrates high-quality olive oil. Olive oil has been a part of Italian cuisine and culture for thousands of years. People come together for the festival to taste olive oil, of course, but it’s also a time to showcase other productive harvests. Walnuts, chestnuts, cured meats, wine and cheese also make appearances, and on the second day, local priests bless fresh olive oil.
Sukkot — Global
Celebrated among Jewish people around the globe and particularly in Israel, Sukkot is an agricultural festival commemorating the 40 years Jewish travelers spent in the desert after escaping slavery in Egypt. During the weeklong holiday, those who observe Sukkot eat and spend time in a temporary outdoor structure decorated with foliage called a sukkah, and they sometimes even sleep in the sukkah. This hut-like structure recalls the time the Israelites spent in the wilderness and serves as a source of gratitude for the shelter and comfort people’s homes provide.