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September 2016

Autumn Festivals You May Not Know About

Unique autumn festivals from around the world

We’re all familiar with Oktoberfest, Thanksgiving, and Dia de los Muertos. By now, these traditions have inspired festivities across the globe. But what are some of the more unique autumn festivals? Today we take a trip around the world to discover some celebrations you may not have heard about.

MassKara Festival (The Philippines)

MassKara is a combination of two words, a portmanteau: mass (a crowd) and cara (Spanish for “face”). Masks are traditionally worn, adding another meaning to the name, as maskara is the Filipino (standard Tagalog) word for “mask”. The influence of Carnival has since inspired the evolution of these masks over time to something resembling what one might find in Venice or Rio. Dances are held in streets, beauty pageants are conducted, music is performed, food is eaten, and sports are played. Despite the vibrancy of this fun and colorful festival, MassKara was actually birthed during darker times, back in 1980 when the country's primary export, sugar, had dropped drastically in price (thanks, high fructose corn syrup). This festival of smiles was held to bring the citizens out of their funk.

Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival (Ireland)

Love is in the air in Ireland during the Lisdoonvarna Matchmaking Festival. Taking place during September and early October, the annual festival celebrates one of Ireland's oldest traditions: setting people up for romance. Held in the spa town of Lisdoonvarna, matchmaking became prominent here in the 1920s. Only one "true matchmaker" remains, a pub owner named Willie Daly. According to Daly, the old methods work best: get a bunch of people together around some tables and let them talk, then encourage some dancing…

Trailing of the Sheep (United States)

Baa! When Autumn arrives in Idaho, its citizens prepare for the Trailing of the Sheep. A celebration of sheepherding traditions, it is today one of the state’s biggest events. Knitting is a popular feature, of course, as a big portion of the festival celebrates wool. Live music, folk storytelling, cooking classes, and lots of fluffy sheep can be expected.

Spirit of Our Nations Pow Wow (Canada)

In Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, a city in central Canada, a Native American celebration is held each year by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations: the Spirit of Our Nations Pow Wow. A pow wow is a festival involving singing, dancing, socializing, and cultural traditions (popularised by now in numerous Westerns). The pow wow takes place this year in mid-November and proves to be a festive exploration of the rich heritage and culture of North America’s original inhabitants.

Festival of Dashain (Nepal)

Good triumphs over evil during the Festival of Dashain in Nepal. The 15-day celebration begins during the second week of October. It is the country's longest and most celebrated festival. Festivities include kite flying, card playing, the acquisition of new vestments, public fairs, and, to the chagrin of animal rights activists, the sacrifice of animals at holy temples. Numerous feasts are held, thus feeding the demand for more meat.

Jidai Matsuri (Japan)

The Jidai Matsuri, also known as the Festival of Ages, celebrates the founding of Kyoto, a festival that began during the Meiji Restoration, when the capital of Japan moved from Kyoto to Tokyo in 1868. What better way to maintain the city's glory than by creating a big party full of costumes, a grand procession from the Imperial Palace to Heian Shrine, performers dressed as samurai warriors, and soldiers? The celebration is held on the 22nd of October of each year.

Círio de Nazaré (Brazil)

Brazil’s largest religious festival is the Círio de Nazaré, held each year on the second week of October. Revelers gather around the Nossa Senhora de Nazaré (Our Lady of Nazareth) statue to honor the Virgin Mary. The statue, believed to have been sculpted in Nazareth and purportedly the source of several miracles in Portugal, was later found in Brazil. To commemorate the discovery, the statue is carried via boat along the Amazon River. Hymns are sung, bells are rung, and fireworks are set under the watchful gaze of the Basílica Santuário de Nazaré. As far as Brazilian parties go, it’s only second to the country’s grandest celebration of all: Rio’s Carnaval.

Does your country have a unique autumn celebration? Let us know on our Facebook Page, and be sure to “like” TELC English for more articles on culture from around the world!

Picture: (c) Fotolia, Maya Kruchancova