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The Best International Autumn Festivals 2013

Autumn Harvest Festival

Autumn is finally here, so if you've been hiding from this year’s very hot summer - that heatwave certainly won't be forgotten - it’s time to get outside and enjoy the cooler weather. What better way to do that than by visiting a few interesting festivals?

With the Autumn equinox just behind us we are at the start of a new season and there are many festivals to choose from. Harvest festivals, for instance, are all about the hard work farmers put in, and celebrating the abundance of food gathered throughout the year. It's a time to relax, spend a few days with friends and family, and of course, eat. Those are, however, by no means the only festivals on offer this autumn. Here’s a list of some of the varied festivals and holidays that can be celebrated closer and further afield.

Chuseok, South Korea

18 - 20 September 2013

This traditional harvest festival is a highlight of the Korean calendar and falls between September and October every year. The foliage in South Korea is excellent in October and you can always take in some traditional festivities by going to the Namsangol Hanok Village in Seoul itself, where you can watch some cultural performances year round. You could even learn to make the colourful Korean rice-cakes called songpyeong.

While in Seoul why not experience the cultural environment properly and stay in a beautiful traditional house - known as hanok in Korea - like Tea Guesthouse? This wooden hanok house is situated in the Bunchon Hanok village in Seoul. The guesthouse offers classic Korean cuisine such as kimchi, a fermented cabbage dish and national obsession, the Korean rice wine makgeolli and dasik, which is beautiful traditional confectionery embossed with flowers and geometric patterns. You can also participate in a traditional tea ceremony or drape yourself in hanbok, the colourful Korean dresses that women wear, while striking poses for your own photo shoot.

Hanok HouseCourtyard of the traditional Tea Guesthouse in Seoul

Jinju Lantern Festival, South Korea

1 - 14 October 2013

The Yudeung Namgang Festival, also in South Korea, is a true hidden gem. Every year hundreds of floating lanterns decorate the Namgang River in the southern city of Jinju. The festival has its origins in a 16th century practise of lighting floating lanterns on the river at night to prevent invaders from wading through the Namgang. While the festival commemorates the past, it is also about hope and serenity. You can stroll along the banks of the Namgang while gazing at the colourful lanterns lighting up the night or release your own floating wish lantern onto the river. Alternatively test your chopstick skills on some pajeon - green onion pancake - accompanied with dongdongju - a cloudy rice wine served from a wooden bowl into cups with a ladle - at one of the many open air food tents.

Big colourful lanternsLanterns depicting traditional Korea at the Jinju Lantern Festival

Durga Puja, West Bengal

9 - 14 October 2013

This popular Bengali festival celebrates the victory of the ten-armed goddess Durga over Mahishasura - the evil water buffalo demon. Durga is a popular incarnation of the Hindu mother goddess Devi, and is said to be a beautiful maiden who contains the power of all the gods. After an attack by Mashihasura on heaven Durga marched against him, and finally defeated him on the tenth day of the waxing moon.

The main celebrations for this festival of the triumph of good over evil are held in Kolkata, West Bengal. The city fills with pandals (colourful temporary structures built for Durga) lights and people. On the final day of the festival there is a dazzling parade of people carrying crafted Durga idols. They march through the city and eventually into the Hooghly River. This festival is sometimes referred to as the Rio Carnival of the East.

DurgaThe Goddess Durga

Edinburgh Storytelling Festival, Edinburgh

18 - 27 October 2013

Maybe you’d like to travel this autumn but prefer staying closer to home. Why not head to the Scottish International Storytelling Festival in Edinburgh? The 2013 festival will delight the traveller in you, since storytellers from around the world will come together to explore the role of nomads, wandering writers and explorers and the journeys they have been on.

Edinburgh at nightExplore Edinburgh at dusk

Halloween, USA

31 October 2013

Halloween has its origins in a Pagan harvest festival that dates back to Celtic times. However, we all know that in popular culture it is celebrated with costumes, carving pumpkins and trick-or-treating.

If you find yourself in New York on Halloween day take in the spectacular yearly parade in Greenwich Village, involving thousands of dressed up participants. And if you really feel like exploring, why not go somewhere unusual for Halloween? Like Japan? Check out Haunted Tokyo Tours, and go on a quirky evening tour of the most haunted areas of Tokyo - a surprisingly ghost-filled city. However, since it is such a popular celebration you won’t have any problems finding somewhere closer to home to enjoy Halloween.

HalloweenHalloween Parade, New York

Day of the Dead, Mexico

1 - 2 November 2013

This ancient festival, which dates back to Aztec times, is about families and friends getting together to pray for and commemorate the lives of friends and relatives who have passed away. It is particularly popular in Mexico, where it is a national holiday. Tourists flock to Mexico to see the solemn yet colourful festivities. It is common to see altars honouring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favourite food of the departed. In some villages marigolds are strewn from graves to front doors, since it is believed that spirits can easily follow the path made by the wonderful scent of the flowers back home. Food and beverages are also often taken to the deceased's graves as gifts.

Day of the DeadDay of the Dead altar, Mexico

Thanksgiving, USA

28 November 2013

Thanksgiving, which also has its roots in celebrating and being grateful for the year's harvest, falls on the fourth Thursday of November, and every year there are more and more Thanksgiving festivities across the USA to choose from. A traditional favourite remains New York City’s annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The first one was held in 1924, and it is one of a few famous thanksgiving parades in the US. If you find yourself closer to the south of the country instead, you can head to the Thanksgiving Dixieland Jazz Festival in San Diego, California, held this year from 27 November - 1 December.

ThanksgivingThanksgiving in the USA
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