Each harvest festival around the world takes place during a different season. Each has its own unique traditions and customs, with different food prepared for different reasons. But if there's one thing that stays the same, it's an overwhelming ethos of gratitude—a universal language of Thanksgiving which reminds us that we're perhaps more alike than we are different.
Here's to deeper, more meaningful travel as the ultimate reminder of just that.
October 1, 2020
Chuseok, once known as hangawi, falls on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar on the full moon—in 2020, that means the first of October. This three-day festival is when Koreans return to their ancestral towns to celebrate family, exchange gifts, and give thanks for plentiful harvests. On the eve of the holiday known as "Korean Thanksgiving," families can be found together in the kitchen preparing songpyeon, a traditional steamed rice cake made with ground new rice and filled with sesame seeds, red beans, or chestnuts. Other common Chuseok foods include jeon (Korean pancake), Gogi Wanjajeon (meatballs pan-fried in an egg batter), Nokdujeon (mung bean pancake), Gosari Namul (stir-fried fiddlehead ferns), and Muguk (radish soup).
Fun Fact: There is an old Korean adage, 더도 말고 덜도 말고 한가위만 같아라, which translates to: “Wish not for more or less, but that every day would be like Chuseok.”
Thinking about traveling to South Korea? Leave the planning to Journy and get paired 1-on-1 with your own personal trip designer for a custom-built daily travel plan.
October 4, 2020
Erntedankfest is a religious festival that, like other harvest festivals around the world, originated as a way to give thanks for the prior year’s bounty (the word Erntedankfest itself translates to “thanks for the harvest festival”). Today, it’s widely celebrated in Catholic and Protestant churches on the first Sunday in October, a date that the church chose due to its proximity to the fall equinox, which is one of the four dividing days of the religious calendar. Across Germany, Switzerland, and Austria, altars are decorated with sheaves of wheat and fruit, with fireworks and Lanternumzug (or a Lantern Parade) following the second service.
Although the traditional pièce de résistance of a Erntedankfest meal is a goose, you’ll increasingly find turkeys making an appearance on the dinner table, followed by a dessert of Mohnstriezel, a sweet bread sprinkled with poppy seeds that originated in Austria.
Fun fact: The main highlight of the procession is the Erntekrone, a traditional harvest crown made from straw and wheat that became an official status symbol for farmers starting in the 1930s.
January 15 - 18, 2020
Tai Pongal—aka Ponkal or Thai Pongal—is a multi-day Hindu harvest festival in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Typically falling around mid-January to coincide with the auspicious month of Thai on the Tamil solar calendar, Tai Pongal celebrates the abundant harvest of rice, turmeric, and sugarcane.
The first day of the festival is dedicated to honoring the god of rain, Lord Indra, through the ritual of Bhogi Mantalu, during which useless household items are tossed into a roaring bonfire. The following day involves an offering to the sun god by boiling together rice and milk in an earthen clay pot with a turmeric plant attached. Day two also involves making kolams. These hand-drawn geometrical designs, which are made with rice flour and chalk, are placed in entryways to bring prosperity to the home. On the third day, cattle are ornately adorned with garlands and bells to pay homage to cows and other livestock. And on the fourth and final day, women partake in a ritual of celebrating their brothers by visiting their homes and eating the leftover food from the festival.
Fun fact: Tai Pongal is also widely celebrated in Singapore—a result of the city-state’s multicultural immigrant population. During the festival, the neighborhood of Little India comes to life with vibrant light displays, workshops, and vendors selling everything from spices to décor.
4. Rice Harvest
May 1 - June 30
The month of May marks the end of the annual harvest season in Bali (of which rice is a staple) and the official start of the aptly-named Rice Harvest Festival. During this time, towns are decorated with vibrant-colored flags, and shrines of the Hindu rice and fertility goddess, Dewi Sri, are erected in the rice paddies. A highlight of the festival is the Negara Bull Races, when water buffaloes decorated with ornate headdresses race through the streets to showcase the strength of the bulls before they’re auctioned off.
Balinese people stick with traditional fare during the Rice Harvest festival, including grilled and skewered slices of meat, known as satay (or sate in Indonesian), Balinese roasted bork (Babi Gulinig), and a savory porridge-type dish doctored up with spices, roasted peanuts, celery, and shredded chicken (bubur mengguh).
Fun Fact: When Balinese are making effigies of Dewi Sri, they often do so with janur (young coconut leaves), lontar leaves, or cakes made from rice flour.
Want to get away this winter with a relaxing escape to Bali? Journy's got you covered.
11/16 - 11/17, 2019
Italy’s finest quality olives are celebrated during Olivagando, a two-day festival in the Perugia province of Umbria, Italy held in conjunction with the feast of St. Clement, the patron saint of blacksmiths and metalworkers. During this time, a special mass is held for the priest to bless the new oil. Food tastings, seminars, and immersive theatrical and musical performances abound as the locals celebrate not just olives, but also the other traditional foods of the region, including cured meats, truffles, various cheeses, walnuts, and chestnuts.
Fun Fact: The olives are referred to as “La dolce agogia,” which loosely translates to “the sweet drop,” a name that originated from the most common type of olive grown in the region.
August 1, 2020
Not to be confused with the September Harvest Festival in the United Kingdom, Lammas takes place at the beginning of August—the month when tenant farmers would present their first crop harvest of the season to landlords. In fact, in Anglo Saxon times, the feast was referred to as the “feast of first fruits.” Today, it’s celebrated across Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland by baking traditional Lammas bread and enjoying a feast with friends and family. The more traditional, religious practice is to bring the loaf into church to be blessed and broken into four pieces, each of which is placed at the corner of a barn to protect and pay homage to the newly harvested grain (primarily barley, wheat, oats, and rye).
Fun Fact: The beginning of August, known as “Lammastide,” is roughly halfway between the summer and autumn solstice. The harvest period continues until the last winter stores are put away, a period known as “Samhain.”
But really, there's no bad time of year to visit England. You can take our word for it—we've planned hundreds of trips there.
November 28, 2019
(Fourth Thursday in November)
And last but not least...Thanksgiving. Celebrated on the second Monday of October in Canada and the fourth Thursday of November in the United States, Thanksgiving originated from the harvest feast of 1621 between the Pilgrims and Wampanoag people in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Today, it exists as a secular holiday dedicated to giving thanks for family, friends, health, and overall good fortune. Modern-day traditional fare features turkey as a main dish alongside a stocked roster of sides: stuffing, cranberries, potatoes (sweet and mashed), and, invariably, some variation of pie, whether it's pumpkin, apple, or cranberry.
Fun fact: In 1939, then President Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to move Thanksgiving up a week to the third Thursday in November in an attempt to extend the Christmas shopping season and boost the economy. The only problem? Only select states complied with the new date, so come 1941, Roosevelt issued an official proclamation confirming the fourth Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.
Once Thanksgiving is behind us, it's officially time to start ogling at the over-the-top holiday light displays around New York City.