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Fall Holidays: Way More than Just Halloween

            During the fall time, most Americans–particularly American Christians–may be thinking about Halloween and Thanksgiving as the holidays for fall. For people of many other cultures and religions around the world, however, the fall looks drastically different. This is a snapshot of some of the holidays that are celebrated by people all over the world, including people who have brought these holidays to the United States.

1)     Diwali (India): Diwali is a major festival celebrated in the Hindu religion, especially in India. It lasts for 5 days, from the 13th day of the dark half of Ashvina to the second day of the light half of Karttika on the lunar calendar. On the Gregorian calendar, it usually falls somewhere between October and November. Various deities are worshipped depending on the region of India the festival is being celebrated in. In Bengal, Kali is worshipped. In north India, the return of Rama, Sita, Lakshmama, and Hanuman to Ayodhya is celebrated. Diwali is an important time for visiting loved ones, exchanging gifts, cleaning, wearing new clothes, and gambling.

2)     Mid-Autumn Festival (China): The Mid-Autumn festival is one of the most important festivals in China—the only one that is more important is Chinese New Year. It falls on the 15th day of the eighth month on the Chinese calendar, which is in late September or early October on the Gregorian calendar depending on the year. It represents the reunion of families, and there are many ways to celebrate during the festival with your family. Lots of people eat dinner together and go watch the moon together. Eating mooncakes is the most representative tradition of the festival—the cake is made from wheat flour and a sweet stuffing such as sweetened lotus seed paste. It is then cut into the same number of pieces as the family is large.

3)     Oktoberfest (Germany): Oktoberfest is an annual festival that is held for 2 weeks every year in Munich, Germany, ending on the first Sunday in October. It originated from the 19th century to celebrate the marriage of the crown prince of Bavaria to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. By the late 20th century, food and drink booths had developed into large beer halls, and major breweries set these up as temporary structures every year. Oktoberfest has parades, games, rides, music, and dancing as well, and more than 6 million people attend each year.

4)     Día de Muertos, “The Day of the Dead” (Several Latin American countries): The Day of the Dead is a 2-day celebration in Latin American countries, but it’s strongly associated with Mexico. It is a tradition that dates back at least 3,000 years. During the 16th century, Spanish colonialism resulted in Christian elements being combined into these traditions to create the modern version of this celebration. This holiday is on November 1st and 2nd, and it is a celebration of the lives of those who are no longer with us. Temporary altars with offerings for deceased relatives are made, and there are many celebrations. On midnight on October 31st, the souls of the children who were lost are thought to come and visit their families on November 1st, ad the souls of the adults come to visit on November 2nd. Common symbols for this holiday include skulls, skeletons, flowers, and butterflies.

Some of us on campus, attending Beloit College from home, or even in the Beloit community at large may celebrate some of these holidays annually, or have participated in a celebration shared with friends one year. Either way, there are so many wonderful holidays in the world at this time of the year, and it’s never a bad time to highlight them.

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