Fall Festivals Worldwide: Discover 5 Cultural Celebrations

by Joanna Farley

Pick a pumpkin or dance with el diablo! Image by Flickr user Susan Sermoneta.

The fall is always a great time to travel. The change in seasons usually means fewer crowds, lower prices, and mild weather.  

While many places hold their best festivals during the summer months, when tourist crowds (and related income) are most likely, October is a great time to explore less commercialized events, especially those dedicated to preserving cultures and traditions that have endured hundreds of years.

No matter which corner of the world you find yourself in, here are five fall festivals to check out this fall!

Cape Breton Celtic Festival, Canada

Nowhere is Canada’s Celtic history more alive than in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia (New Scotland).

Taking over the entirety of Cape Breton Island, the Celtic Colours International Festival (October 9-19) celebrates Celtic music, traditional dancing, storytelling, and more. A 10-day celebration, the festival includes large-scale events in Halifax featuring internationally famed performers and smaller events that pop up on a less organized and sometimes free basis in small towns and rural communities.

Fall is a perfect time to visit Nova Scotia and enjoy the incredible reds, oranges, and golds of the changing trees and still (relatively) warm waters of the beaches that surround the island.

Virgen del Rosario Festival, Peru

The Virgin of the Rosary, associated with Peru’s former slaves, has been celebrated with this festival each year since 1668 in the mountain town of Cajabamba.

A 10-day celebration filled with regional costumes, handicrafts, folk-dancing contests, and fireworks, the festival culminates on the first Sunday of October with a mass, Saints’ Parade, and the “devil’s dance” evening celebration, where performers dressed in elaborate costumes ask for the Virgin’s forgiveness from sin through symbolic dance.

Located 15 hours by bus away from Trujillo, Cajamarca and Huamachuco are the nearest towns to Cajabamba. The town also boasts nearby lagoons and caverns to explore, as well as a weekly cattle market.

El diablo at the Virgen de Rosas festival

El diablo (the devil) in Peru. Image by Wikimedia user Aldoz.

Erfoud Date Festival, Morocco

Finding the perfect date is just as important when it comes the fruit as it is in romance. Erfoud’s annual three-day date festival, usually held in the first week of October, celebrates the harvest in the place considered to produce Morocco’s best dates.

Celebrations include street processions, dances, food, and camel races.

Visitors can arrive by private car or bus (once daily from Fez and Marrakesh) to the small oasis town, which also features the Sahara’s only royal palace and nearby fossil-filled dunes.

EuroChocolate, Italy

Perugia has  taken pride in manufacturing Baci chocolates for 100 years, but only recently realized there was a market for worshipping the art of chocolate. Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, EuroChocolate (October 17-26) involves over 100 chocolateires offering samples and wares, chocolate statues, chocolate spa treatments, and side events involving music and literature.

While admittedly not the most traditional of festivals, it’s one that deserves to be on this list as every Go Girl with a sweet tooth will definitely want to attend.

Perugia is easily accessible by train or bus from Florence or Rome and even has its own small airport.

Chipping chocolate at the EuroChocolate festival

Chipping (hacking?) away chocolate. Image by Flickr user Chiara Marra.

Bun Nam/Oc Om Boc Festivals, Laos and Vietnam

Held in both Vietnam (Oc Om Boc) and Laos (Bun Nam), these two festivals celebrate the end of the rainy season and the full moon with boat races.

Oc Om Boc, held in Soc Trang City, brings together people of the Khmer minority to honor the moon by flying kites and laterns and giving offerings to the river, followed by Ngo boat racing the next day to honor the local water deities. The event also involves traditional dances and music, special festival foods, and heavy betting on the boat races themselves.

In neighbouring Laos, a similar event – Bun Nam – occurs at the end of the annual three-month rainy season Buddhist retreat, when monks leave their monasteries in search of alms. After an evening of worship, including offerings to the Mekong River, the next day is filled with boat races (suang heua), with competitors arriving from throughout Laos, Thailand, and Burma for three days of races, parties, discos, and carnival-style events, including water fights.

This year the events should occur from October 7 or 8 until October 11.

Boat races at the Oc Om Boc festival

Boat races at the Oc Om Boc festival. Image from chudu24.com.

What’s your favorite fall festival? Tell us why you love it in the Comments below!

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