Unique Autumn Traditions from Around the World

Marianne Stenger
18th September 2019

As the falling leaves and cooler temperatures signal the approach of autumn, it’s only natural to feel a little glum about summer’s end. But there’s plenty to love about this season of cosy jumpers, pumpkin spice lattes and woodland walks, not to mention that the vibrant autumn colours combined with still mild weather make it an excellent time of year for outdoor photography.

Autumn is celebrated differently in every culture, and although we’re all familiar with America’s Thanksgiving, Germany’s Oktoberfest, and our very own Bonfire Night here in the UK, there are a number of other autumn traditions that you’re probably not as well acquainted with. 

So whether you’re keen to photograph the changing of the season or are just looking for an excuse to plan a trip abroad, we’ve lined up a few unique autumn traditions from around the world.

1. Mid-autumn festival, East Asia

The Mid-Autumn Festival or Moon Festival is a lunar harvest festival celebrated throughout East and Southeast Asia, but primarily in China and Vietnam. It falls near the Autumnal Equinox on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, when the moon is at its fullest and brightest.

The full moon is thought to signal a time of abundance, and to celebrate, families will unite to enjoy a meal together and light colourful lanterns which are paraded through the streets. One of the delicacies synonymous with this festival is the moon cake, a type of dense pastry filled with salted egg yolk, lotus or bean paste and other things like fruits and nuts.


2. Magusto, Portugal

In the north of Portugal, autumn is welcomed with Magusto celebrations that take place in late October and early November. The festivities revolve around chestnuts, which are roasted over the fire and eaten piping hot from a paper cone. Usually they are also paired with a sweet liqueur wine called Jeropiga. In some villages where chestnut fairs are held, you’ll also find traditional singing and dancing as well as street performers in medieval dress.  


3. Saint Andrew’s Night, Romania

Although by now we’re all well-acquainted with Halloween, Romania has its own version of the spooky holiday which falls on the eve of November 29.

As you may have already guessed, Saint Andrew’s Day is a celebration dedicated to Romania’s patron saint, Saint Andrew. The night before the Feast of Saint Andrew, however, legend has it that ghosts, vampires and werewolves roam the dark streets. In order to stay safe, it’s believed that people must stay home and use garlic to ward off evil.


4. Water Festival, Cambodia

Cambodia’s Water Festival, Bon Om Touk, is celebrated in November to mark the end of the wet season as well as the annual reversal of the flow of the Tonle Sap River.

During the three-day celebration, people from all over the country travel to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital city, to watch the colourful boat races that take place along the river. The festivities also include street parties with live music, parades, fireworks, and cultural performances.


5.  Sheep Round-ups, Iceland

A unique autumn tradition in Iceland is the annual sheep roundup or ‘réttir.’ In Iceland, sheep make up more than twice the human population and are almost entirely free range during the summer months. This means that in September, before winter sets in, all these sheep must be collected.

The roundup is a national televised event that sees people join in on foot, horseback, and ATVs to herd thousands of sheep to their folds. Once all the sheep have been herded and sorted, farmers and guests get together for an outdoor celebration, while visitors get to snap photos and pet the sheep.


6. St Martin’s Day, Germany

Saint Martin’s Day or the Feast of Saint Martin is an important holiday in Germany, particularly for children. On November 11, children will join street parades while carrying paper lanterns they have made in school and singing songs about the saint. The lantern procession is often led by a man on horseback dressed as Saint Martin with a long red cloak.

After the procession has ended, there will often be a bonfire and traditional foods such as goose with red cabbage and dumplings will be eaten. In some areas, children will also go from house to house and sing for candy or cookies, a tradition known as ‘Martinssingen.’


7. Autumnal Equinox at Stonehenge, UK

The autumnal equinox signals the official change of season and marks the day when the Earth is in alignment with the Sun directly above the Earth’s Equator. On this day, which usually falls between September 21 and 23, both the day and night are exactly 12 hours long.

Each year on this day, neo-druids, neo-pagans and Wiccans are granted special access to Stonehenge just before dawn to honour their traditions and watch the sun rise over the famous prehistoric monument. Ordinary visitors must join a tour in order to observe this unique Stonehenge autumn equinox celebration.


Are you putting together a photo book this autumn? Be sure to check out these tips and ideas for creating an autumn-themed photo book and take a look at our photo book features to find the format that best suits your photography project.