Autumn is the perfect season for discovering Asia! Here’s 5 destinations to add in your bucket list if you love rituals linked to nature and popular traditions.
Kyoto – Jidai Matsuri
An Autumn festival that dates back 100 years and takes place every October 22nd, the anniversary of Kyoto’s foundation. The 2000 parade’s participants wear costumes from different periods of Japanese history. The festival dates back to 1896, the date of its firstvedition, and takes place at the Heian Shrine. The procession shows historical eras and different themes, followed by a musical band with drums and flutes.
The last group in the parade carries two mikoshi (portable shrines) containing Emperor Kammu and Emperor Komei’s spirits. They were the first and last emperors to reside in Kyoto. The Heian Shrine is dedicated to them.
India – “Diwali”, festival of lights in autumn
It is one of the most important Indian festivals on the new moon of the month of Karttika, between October and November. It’s in honor of Lakshmi, goddess of fortune and wife of Vishnu. It symbolizes the victory of Good over Evil, of Light over Darkness. The festival’s name comes from the Sanskrit Dipavali, “string of lights” or “necklace of lights” where dipa means “light, lantern”.
The festival lasts five days throughout India. In this period houses, courtyards and roofs are lit up with candles and lamps called “diya”. During the Festival of Lights, people exchage gifts and food.
In many regions of India on Dipavali’s morning people wake up before dawn and take a ritual bath. People believe that Ganges’ waters are present in all the waters on that day. The day after Divali, Annakuta, in Varanasi piles of sweets and grains are set up in the sacred heart of the city, in Shiva Vishvanatha and Annapurna’s temples.
Corea – Chuseok
It is the “harvest festival” as it coincides with the first autumn rice harvests. In this period in Korea, people prepare Kimchi (cabbage cooked in a spicy sauce). Chuseok is an occasion where families stay together and is dedicated to ancestors’ rites.
Since the morning, families make offerings to the ancestors’ spirits and clean their graves. Then they eat traditional foods, such as songpyeon (a rice cake), wine and liquors extracted from rice (sindoju and dongdongju). They also exchange gifts wrapped with cloth according to the custom of Bojagi which means ‘object that contains blessings’.
Cina – Moon Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival
The Moon Festival or Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important traditional holiday in China after the Chinese New Year. It dates back approximately 3000 years and derives from sacrificial ceremonies dedicated to the moon.
The moon cakes, the yuebing made with water and flour and filled with a pastry that can be of various flavors, are typical of this occasion. Some prepare them at home, eat them with the family and give them to friends, relatives and colleagues as a good wish.
One of the still deeply felt traditions is admiring the Moon with family members. In the past, there were altars with offerings: moon cakes, incense, candles and round-shaped fruits, such as watermelon, grapefruit, pomegranate, persimmons and grapes.
Decorating and hanging paper round lanterns, in the shape of animals or flowers is another tradition much loved by Chinese children who decorate them. The most famous ones are the “kongming lanterns”, those that fly away into the sky.
Thailandia – Yi Ping and Loy Krathong
There are two lantern festivals in Thailand: the Yi Ping festival with paper lanterns floating in the night sky and the Loy Krathong festival with baskets of lotus-shaped leaves lit by candles floating in rivers throughout Thailand. Both take place during the full moon days in November. While Loy Krathong Festival celebrations spread throughout Thailand, people celebrate Yi Peng Festival only in the North of the country.
The Yi Peng lantern festival coincides with the end of the monsoon season and is an opportunity to free yourself from negative energies and pray for luck for the coming year, releasing light paper lanterns into the sky. If the lantern flies up and disappears before the candle inside goes out, it means that the year will be very lucky. The most important celebrations for the Yi Peng Lantern Festival take place in Chiang Mai. If you want to celebrate together with the local people, you must go to the Ping River, the Three Kings Monument or the Thapae Gate.
The Loy Krathong Festival originates in the ancient kingdom of Sukhothai and dates back approximately 800 years. It is celebrated nationwide by gathering around lakes, rivers and canals to place krathong lanterns, lotus flower-shaped baskets made from banana leaves and decorated with flowers and candles. In the krathong’s center are placed 3 incense sticks and a lit candle. It is a purification ceremony in honor of the water godness Pra Mae Khongkha. In Sukhothai Loy Krathong lasts for five days and most of the events such as a beauty pageant, parades, folk music performances and a traditional music and light show take place in Sukhothai Historical Park.
Ready to immerse yourself in a kaleidoscope of colors and traditions?!