Festivals Taking Place Around the World in November

November 2, 2015 by

Asia, Australia & the Pacific, Europe, Festivals & Events, North America, Places to Go, Things to Do

By November many people may be on fast-forward, thinking ahead to Christmas and the New Year — but November offers an array of festivals and events that shouldn’t be overlooked. There are sporting events, food-centric holidays, festivals of light and some downright odd celebrations which’ll make for the best cocktail party stories to tell back home.

Visiting a new place during a festival can be a great way to get an inside look at traditional food, music and art, and to learn more about the local culture. Here are some of the festivals taking place around the world in November.

Thanksgiving – USA

Macy's Thanksgiving Parade in NYC

Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC

Thanksgiving in the United States is meant to honor a shared meal between natives and settlers in the “New World,” but most of the time it’s just an excellent excuse to spend a long weekend with family and friends, overeating and watching football. If you know someone in the U.S., this is a great time to visit — there’s nothing like spending Thanksgiving in someone’s home. But if you’re on your own, never fear – many restaurants offer special Thanksgiving meals so you can enjoy a little bit of the flavor of the holiday. The date of Thanksgiving changes each year, but it’s always the fourth Thursday in November. In 2015, it’s on November 26.

Book a Thanksgiving dinner cruise in New York

Bonfire Night/Guy Fawkes Night – England

Bonfire during Guy Fawkes Night. Photo credit: Shane Global via Flickr.

Bonfire during Guy Fawkes Night. Photo credit: Shane Global via Flickr.

Many “bonfire nights” are celebrated around the world, but in England the most famous one is Guy Fawkes Night, which takes place every year on November 5th. It marks the day in 1605 when Guy Fawkes was caught with a cache of explosives underneath the House of Lords. He, along with other members of the so-called Gunpowder Plot, had planned to blow up Parliament in conjunction with a revolution to overthrow the king. Londoners celebrated the fact that the king’s life had been spared by lighting bonfires around the city. Today, November 5th is marked by public bonfires and fireworks.

Pushkar Camel Fair – Rajasthan, India

Pushkar Camel Fair

Pushkar Camel Fair

The Pukshar Camel Fair in Rajasthan, India, is by no means the only camel fair. It is, however, one of the largest in the world. At its heart, the Pushkar festival is precisely what the name suggests — an annual gathering of people who want to buy or sell camels (along with other livestock). Over the years, it has also become a tourist attraction, so that there are now more spectators than camels. A camel race kicks off the event, which is particularly fun to watch. The dates of the Pushkar Fair vary each year, as they coincide with the Hindu calendar, but usually fall in late October or early November. In 2015, the festival runs from November 14 to 23.

Melbourne Cup – Melbourne, Australia

Horse Racing at the Melbourne Cup

Horse racing at the Melbourne Cup

Australia’s biggest horse race may take less than four minutes to run, but other races and events also take place in the time leading up to and just after the Melbourne Cup — so if you like horse racing and a festive atmosphere, Melbourne is the place to be in early November. The Melbourne Cup is so popular in Australia it’s been called “the race that stops a nation,” with more than 100,000 people watching it live at Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne. Other events around the race include a parade and three other major races within a week. The Melbourne Cup is held the first Tuesday in November each year, which in 2015 is November 3.

Düsseldorf Karneval – Düsseldorf, Germany

Düsseldorf Karneval. Photo credit:Michael Welsing via Flickr.

Düsseldorf Karneval. Photo credit: Michael Welsing via Flickr.

Carnival is not just for Rio or Venice — the one in Düsseldorf is arguably the city’s biggest annual festival. Karneval, as it’s known in German, is quite a big deal in the Rhineland region of Germany, particularly in Cologne and Düsseldorf. Known as “the fifth season,” Karneval in Düsseldorf begins at 11:11 a.m. on the 11th of November (the 11th month), and continues right up until Lent (usually in February or March). The festivities take a back seat to the Christmas holidays, but kick into high gear again in early January.

Macau Grand Prix – Macau, China

Victory Flag for the Macau Grand Prix

Victory flag for the Macau Grand Prix

When differing languages fail us, a shared love of sports can unite us. Motorsports are extremely popular in many parts of the world, including Asia — and in Macau, the annual Macau Grand Prix gives race junkies a weekend to enjoy racing on both two and four wheels. Race weekend begins on a Thursday with motorcycles and cars practicing and qualifying, which continues on Friday. Races begin on Saturday, and the Motorcycle Grand Prix is held on Saturday night. The premier event is on Sunday: the Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix. Race weekend varies between the second and third weekends in November, but in 2015 it runs from November 19 to 22.

Diwali – India

Clay oil lamps are lit for Diwali in India.

Clay oil lamps are lit for Diwali in India.

Diwali is also commonly known as the “festival of lights,” which means that although it goes on for five days it’s really all about what happens after the sun goes down. During the five days of Diwali, clay oil lamps are lit and kept going throughout each night while members of the household clean, and firecrackers are set off. All this is meant to drive away evil spirits and invite in good spirits. Diwali is an important holiday to Hindus, and also a holiday for Jains, so it’s celebrated in many parts of the world outside of India, too. The starting date for Diwali varies with the Hindu calendar, but it usually falls in October or November. In 2015, it begins on November 11.

Shanghai Art Fair – Shanghai, China


The Shanghai Art Fair takes place in November.

The Shanghai Art Fair began in 1997, and has been growing steadily as a premier art event in Asia, celebrating contemporary art as well as old masters. Each year, more than a thousand art galleries from more than 50 countries are represented at the fair, which is as much about the buying and selling of art as it is about displaying art for the public to see. In 2000, a cast of Rodin’s famous “The Thinker” was purchased by a Chinese company as part of the fair and erected in Shanghai. In 2007, French sculptor Georges Saulterre began a close connection with the Shanghai Art Fair, one of very few French sculptors to have any presence in China. The Shanghai Art Fair is held at the ShanghaiMART, and the 2015 dates are November 12 to 15.

Monkey Buffet Festival – Lopburi, Thailand

The Monkey Buffet Festival in Lopburi, Thailand

The Monkey Buffet Festival in Lopburi, Thailand

No, this isn’t a festival with various dishes made of monkey on the buffet line, as the name might suggest to some; the Monkey Buffet Festival (or Monkey Banquet, as it’s sometimes known) in Lopburi is held in honor of the town’s resident macaque monkeys. These monkeys are allowed to go anywhere they please and get away with every manner of mischief, because locals believe they’re good luck charms. So once a year since 1989, the people of Lopburi make their way to the ruins of a nearby Khmer temple that’s overrun with the macaques. There, they play music and dance, after which the monkey are “invited” to feast on a huge spread of food prepared by chefs. As you might guess, it can get messy. The Monkey Buffet Festival takes place in November every year, and in 2015 it’s held on November 28 and 29.

New York Marathon – New York City, USA

New York Marathon. Photo credit:Marc van der Chijs via Flickr.

New York Marathon. Photo credit: Marc van der Chijs via Flickr.

Marathons are held all over the world, but one of the top races — as one of the largest in the world and one that every marathon runner wants to do — is the New York City Marathon. It’s been held every year (except one) since 1970, and recent years have seen more than 45,000 finishers. Because the race is so popular, attracting far more entries than can be accepted, most of the runners are chosen by a lottery system. The race course goes through all five of New York City’s boroughs, beginning on Staten Island before moving on to Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx. The course then winds back into Manhattan, finishing in Central Park outside Tavern on the Green. The marathon is held on the first Sunday in November, which is November 1 in 2015.

JazzFest Berlin – Berlin, Germany

Head to Berlin for JazzFest.

Head to Berlin for JazzFest.

Berlin’s annual jazz festival, JazzFest, started in 1964 in what was then West Berlin. Today, the festival is held in several venues along what’s known as the “mile of jazz,” including the Haus der Berliner Festspiele, A-Trane and Quasimodo — a jazz club in the Zoologischer Garten. JazzFest Berlin lasts four days, and brings in talent from all over Europe and elsewhere in the world. Big band-style jazz is particularly popular at JazzFest, but there’s plenty of variety in the performances. In 2015, JazzFest Berlin runs from November 5 to 8.

Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights – Niagara Falls, Canada

Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights

Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights

For many people, November is the time to start decorating for the upcoming Christmas holidays — and few places get as festive with lights as Niagara Falls, Ontario. The Niagara Parks Winter Wonderland is decked out with three million lights and more than 125 animated lighting displays. You can tour the illuminated park by car or hop in a coach bus (entry is free, but donations are welcomed) to see the whole five-kilometer (3.1-mile) route. This festival, which began in 1983, is run by Ontario Power Generation (who better to keep the lights on?), and other happenings at the park during the event include an outdoor ice skating rink right near Horseshoe Falls and several fireworks shows over the falls. The Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Lights kicks off in November each year and runs through the end of January. In 2015, it starts on November 21.

Tori-No-Ichi (Days of the Rooster) – Japan

Tori-no-ichi fair. Photo credit: Yoshikazu TAKADA via Flickr.

Tori-no-ichi fair. Photo credit: Yoshikazu TAKADA via Flickr.

Tori-No-Ichi celebrates the Chinese zodiac sign of the rooster — tori — and throughout Japan, this means shrines to the rooster are centers of activity during the festival. People go to Otori shrines to ask for good luck in the coming year, and market stalls are set up around the shrines, selling all sorts of good luck charms. One of the most popular items for sale is a kumade, a bamboo rake meant to help its owner “rake in” wealth and good luck. The largest Otori market is in the Asakusa neighborhood of Tokyo, with more than 200 stalls to choose from. Tori-No-Ichi occurs every 12 days in November, but the dates vary each year, so there may be two or three Days of the Rooster in a given year. In 2015, it’s on November 5, 17 and 29.

— Contributed by Jessica Spiegel

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