To many, the main festivity of the month of October falls on its final day. For some, Halloween is a well-known celebration enjoyed by young and old alike. Others, looking for a festival further afield, will plant themselves in a tent in Munich and drink beer all evening. Morning sadness encapsulates them, then the process is repeated several times over, for however many days their visit allows.
But for those tired of seeing the same wart-ridden witches or Bavarian wonderland beer monsters roaming the streets, hold tight. There are more festivals in October than you may think…
Phuket Vegetarian Festival
Thailand: Known to some for its idyllic archipelagos and untouched sandy shores, known to others for its tourist crowded islands and increasingly polluted beaches – different parts of Phuket fall into both of these categories. The Phuket Vegetarian Festival was founded on the Chinese community’s belief that a strict vegetarian diet over this nine-day period has a beneficial cleansing effect. The story goes that a group of Chinese came to the island, got malaria, followed the diet, got better.
Vegetarians of Gibraltar, don’t be fooled by the name; although vegetarianism is the premise, the reality is that you’re likely to find people piecing their cheeks with alarmingly large knives and rods, or perhaps dancing over hot coals and throwing firecrackers around with a reckless disregard for health and safety guidelines.
Perhaps not the best festival for the squeamish.
Legend says the fireballs come from a giant serpent living in the river.
Naga Fireball Festival
Still in Thailand, at the end of Buddhist lent in late October, people flock to the Mekong River in the north to witness a supposed natural phenomenon as part of the Naga Fireball Festival. Glowing red orbs emerge from the water and fly hundreds of metres into the sky to the soundtrack of cheering crowds.
Legend says the fireballs come from a giant serpent living in the river, although science has tried to explain them as gas bubbles ascending to the surface and igniting as they continue their journey upwards into the night air.
A third, more prominent view, sceptical perhaps, is that they are man-made to propagate the popularity of the festival. Believe what you will.
Concurs de Castells
Closer to home, on the 6th and 7th of the month in Tarragona, Catalonia, forty-two groups will be pitted against each other to build the best human tower. First documented over three hundred years ago, this festival has become increasingly popular over the last forty years or so, drawing an international crowd. The towers are judged on difficulty and athleticism, with the record for the tallest tower, a ten-tier tower, being set in 2015.
It would be a shame if you decided not to go this year and missed out on the elusive eleven-tier human structure. If you look further into it, things can become quite technical, with different types of bases and varying numbers of people per level. Evidently there are things in this world that are more complicated than they appear, even if you didn’t know they existed in the first place.
Tübingen Duck Race
Arguably the best festival on this list takes place outside Stuttgart in the historic town of Tübingen. Every year on the 5th of October the quaint riverside town’s population swells by almost a third, only the population growth isn’t solely down to humans – its rivers are occupied by seven thousand non-sentient beings. Rubber ducks.
Buy a duck or two to pop into the river with your name on it, and the winner and runners up receive their share of a surprisingly large €10,000 prize. If you’ve made the journey but forgotten your little yellow buddy, there are some available to rent for €3.
The only rules are: No false starts, and no ducky steroids. Once the hour-ish long race is over, cast your eyes away from the wash of yellow in the water and notice that you’re in a town with a thousand years of history, complete with old churches, cobblestone alleyways, and timber-framed houses.
The only rules are: No false starts, and no ducky steroids.
Polar Circle Marathon
Perhaps you’re the adventurous type and tired of running those regular city marathons. Often dubbed the ‘coolest marathon in the world’, the average temperature of around -15°C and stunning Greenland scenery promise to provide this tagline in more ways than one.
Part of the race is run on the vast ice cap itself, but the main part of the course is run on the connecting gravel road (albeit often snow covered) that leads to the small town of Kangerlussuaq. The polar backdrop more than makes up for the challenging landscape past glaciers, and through the artic desert.
Runners of Gibraltar unite and take on this unique opportunity before global warming takes it off the map.
Before the days of online dating apps, singles used to have to actually go outside and talk to other people in real life to pursue their desires of finding a life partner. Can you imagine?
150 years ago in the Irish town of Lisdoonvarna, farmers from the surrounding lands would flock to the town in their quest to enchant the local ladies with their rural allure and rugged good looks. Today the festival has grown into a mix of speed dating, live music, and dancing which you’d expect to find at any matchmaking event. It also includes horse racing, which is slightly less typical when stereotyping a contingent of singles, but why not.
Of course, the event isn’t only available for those looking for love; everyone is welcome to join in and watch how things used to be done before the days of swiping right.
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
During the second week of October, the skies of Albuquerque, New Mexico, play host to over 500 hot air balloons. The festival offers more than just a stiff neck; there are many other different balloon-related events:
The Dawn Patrol sets off before sunrise where the illuminated balloons offer an ethereal glow against the early morning darkness. Mass Ascension sees every participant launch in two waves. Special Shape Rodeo presents nontraditional alternatives to the familiar flattened sphere, such as a cow, a bee, or a wagon coach. There’s also a skill-based event when balloons attempt to land closest to a target, an opportunity to take a ride in a balloon, and a nice fireworks display to finish it all off.
Over in ancient Japan, the goddess Niutsuhime-No-Kimoto overslept one morning and was late to a meeting with the other Gods. The Gods all made fun of her, which was upsetting, and she locked herself away in the Niu shrine to wallow in her sorrows. The local villagers were saddened by this and wanted to cheer her up, so they congregated around the shrine and started laughing in unison, which restored joy to everyone involved.
Nowadays in modern day Wakayama on the second Sunday of every October, the leader of the party dresses as a clown and leads everyone to the shrine, with the procession laughing in time to the jingling of bells. On arrival you’ll be met with traditional dancing and, in a show of strength and balance (a theme of the day) nobori sashi, the ancient act of bamboo banner balancing.
Of course, the aforementioned events are for those who want to try something a little different to what you might normally experience in October. There are a host of more generic festivals, including world-famous concerts, art fairs, and literary shows throughout the month to steer you away from the same ol’ broomsticks and beer tents.