As a Canadian, “the holiday season” confused me growing up. I could not figure out how it was supposed to be "the holidays" from Thanksgiving up until Christmas — that’s three whole months.
At some point, someone took pity on me and explained that “the holiday season” is an American concept. Canadians don’t lump Thanksgiving in with Christmas. And just like the difference between Canadian and American Thanksgivings, countries all around the world celebrate different occasions during this stretch of the year. With that, I present six harvest festivals outside the U.S.
Fiesta de la Vendimia (Grape Harvest Festival) – Mendoza City, Mendoza Province, Argentina
Officially this festival has been going on since 1936. Unofficially however, various forms of celebrating the first grape harvest of the season have been going on since Mendoza has been making wine. With drinks and people both flowing through the streets, this is any basic girl’s dream.
This week long festival is capped off by the Acto Central where more than 1,000 actors and dancers preform a choreographed routine to a firework show. With an audience 70,000 strong, all full of wine, you’ll have no problem making friends.
จันทบุรีผลไม้แฟร์ (Chanthaburi Fruitpital Fair) – Chanthaburi, Thailand
White sand beaches, crystal blue water, 30°C and tropical fruit plantations as far as the eye can see. If hanging out in one of the most popular travel destinations of the past decade doesn’t interest you as a millennial, the Chanthaburi Fruitipital Fair will call to you as a foodie.
At the end of May, the small city’s streets are flooded with stalls all selling freshly picked tropical fruit you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere else. With everything from dragonfruit to lychees, you won't be disappointed with the aesthetics or the taste. Book your foolishly cheap plane ticket and be ready to be welcomed with open arms.
Festa da Flor da Madeira (Maderia Flower Festival) – Maderia, Portugual
This festival honors the entire season of spring. Thousands of children march to the city center each holding a single flower to build “The Wall of Hope,” a massive flower mural that’s meant to be a call to unity and peace.
Artists in the city will lay out flower carpets while floats roll through the streets carrying all the region's flowers with them. The thought of the smell alone should be enough to send you running.
추석 (Chuseok) – South Korea
Chuseok takes place according to the lunar calendar and is celebrated during the Harvest Moon (August 15 th-ish) with the purpose to honour one’s ancestors. South Koreans will return to their respective hometowns to spend time with family and friends, visit and care for the graves of the departed and share in a meal. Chuseok is everything the western Thanksgiving strives to be.
Incwala (First Fruits Festival) – Swaziland
This is the single most culturally important event for this small landlocked monarchy. Less about harvest and more about cleansing, renewal and a celebration of kingship. All of this is achieved through various ceremonies including men walking over 50km to retrieve branches of sacred trees, the recapturing of an escaped bull and the king’s tasting of the seasons first fruit.
Full war regalia is dawned by the king and his men and most of the week long celebration is marked by singing and dancing.
Beyond expanding your mind to other cultures and practices, take this holiday season to reflect on what the important things really are in your life. Be thankful: for good food, good friends, and sick food resources too.