There are several holidays that happen during the fall.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is an important holiday that is on the 15th day of the 8th month of the the Chinese Lunar (moon) calendar. It usually happens in September or early October. The holiday is celebrated in China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Korea and in other countries. In Korea, is called Chuseok.
The Mid-Autumn Festival is a holiday to celebrate the end of the harvest (farmers finish bringing in food from the fields). At night people go out to look at the moon, and they eat mooncakes together. Mooncakes are small cakes with different fillings. Many stores in Chinatown sell mooncakes at this time of year.
On this night, the moon is full, and it is the brightest and largest full moon of the year. and in English this full moon is called the Harvest Moon.
The Chinese have many stories about the moon, but the main story is that there is a moon-goddess called Chang’e. She lives on the moon. Her husband was a hunter named Houyi. According to a Chinese legend, there used to be ten suns in the sky, and the Earth was being burned by all the suns. Houyi used his bow and arrow to shoot down nine of the ten suns and save the Earth. There is another Chinese story about a rabbit that lives on the moon.
In Canada, Thanksgiving is always the second Monday of October. It is a holiday to give thanks for all the things we have, especially all the good food from the Earth. Traditionally, people have a big supper with their families. The supper usually includes turkey and fresh vegetables that were grown in Canada in the summer. In some ways, Thanksgiving is a harvest festival: a celebration of the food that was grown by farmers that year. It is also a last chance to go out in the country to see the beautiful fall colours of the leaves on the trees.
In the U.S., Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. The American Thanksgiving holiday comes from the Pilgrims, the first English settlers in New England in the early 1600s. For Americans, it also marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.
Halloween is a special holiday in North America. On the evening of October 31st, children dress up in costumes and go from house to house in their neighbourhood. They knock on each door and say “TRICK OR TREAT!” when the door opens. The people in the house give them candies, gum, chocolate bars or other sweets. On Halloween night, most people keep a big bowl of candy near the front door of their house. The children in costumes carry a bag to put all their candy in.
Adults also celebrate Halloween. Many adults have parties and dress up in strange costumes and play games. Some people even wear Halloween costumes at work or school.
Another tradition on Halloween is to carve pumpkins to make Jack O’Lanterns. First, you cut a lid from the top of the pumpkin. Then you clean out the inside and cut a scary face on the front. Then you put a candle inside and put the lantern in your window or on the front steps of your house. The purpose of a jack o’lantern is to fool the evil spirits into thinking that there is already a spirit in your house, so that they will go somewhere else.
The celebration of Halloween has a very long history. Over two thousand years ago the people who lived in Britain were the Celts. The Celts lit big fires on the last night of October to scare away evil ghosts and spirits. At the same time, the ancient Romans had a special holiday at the end of October for the goddess of farming. When the Romans came to Britain, they combined the Celtic tradition with their holiday. So there has been a holiday at the end of October for a long time.
Many years later, in Europe, there was an important religious festival on November 1st. It was called All Saints Day for all of the Christian saints. The night before, October 31st, was called All Hallows Eve (just like the day before Christmas is called Christmas Eve). The word hallow means “saint” or “holy person”. The name “All Hallows Eve” became Halloween. Today, Halloween is not a religious holiday, it is just for fun.
A long time ago, people believed that the ghosts of dead people came back to visit on Halloween. They thought that if they dressed like ghosts, witches or devils, then they would be safe when these evil spirits came to their house. Today people wear all kinds of costumes, but it is traditional to dress like witches, vampires, or some other terrible, frightening monster.
At Halloween time, it is fun to walk around your neighbourhood and see all the jack o’ lanterns that people made. Some have scary faces, and some have funny faces, but they are all interesting. Halloween is a lot of fun for everyone.
Read a ghost story about our school: The Ghost of Victoria School
Did you see some people wearing a red flower on their jackets in late October and early November? This flower is a poppy, and people wear it to remember all the Canadian (and other country) soldiers who died in World War 1, World War 2, the Korean War, and all other wars. You can get a red poppy flower if you make a donation to a person who has poppies for sale at this time of year. Often, the person selling the poppies is a veteran (old soldier). The money is used to help veterans.
Why November 11th? Because World War 1 ended on November 11, 1918, at 11:00 am.
Why a red poppy? Because the poppy is a symbol of the terrible loss of life in World War 1. In 1915, a Canadian doctor named Lieutenant Colonel John McRae was in Belgium in Europe. After his friend died in the battle of Ypres, he wrote this poem about the rows of crosses (graves) of all the dead soldier. The poppy flowers were growing on the graves.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
The poem was famous in Canada, Britain (England), New Zealand and Australia, and on November 11th, people wear the red poppy in those countries to remember soldiers who died for their countries. You can see some lines from the poem on the Canadian $10 bill.
World War 1 (1914 to 1918) was very important in Canada because so many people died. Canada was a small country or only 8,000,000 people, but it sent more than 600,000 soldiers to Europe to fight. Over 67,000 died, and 170,000 were injured. Every town lost some young men, and everyone was affected by the war. It was also and important event as Canada became completely independent from Britain.
World War 2 (1939 to 1945) was also very important in our history. Canada had over 1,100,000 people in the army, navy (sea), and air force, and 65,000 died, and 57,000 were injured.
Remembrance Day is a holiday in some Canadian provinces, but it is not a holiday in Quebec.