September 23 marks the 2015 Autumn Equinox – that moment which sees Europe wave goodbye to summer for another six months. So as autumn descends on Germany, we thought we'd give you a heads-up about the best ways to enjoy the season.
What is the autumn equinox?
On any given day of the year, either the Earth's northern or southern hemisphere is tilted towards the sun. Between around March and September, it's the northern hemisphere – meaning we in Europe get our summer months. During the rest of the year, the southern hemisphere gets the best of the sun's warmth.
However, on two days each year – named Spring and Autumn Equinox – the earth's tilt is perpendicular to the sun's rays. At these times, day and night are of almost equal length.
With the 2015 Autumn Equinox falling on September 23rd, Europe officially welcomes in the autumn and winter months this week.
And what happens during the German autumn?
You're probably well aware of the annual Oktoberfest down in Munich. A monumental party that kicked off on September 19th this year and runs all the way until October 4th, Oktoberfest is perhaps the pinnacle of German autumn tradition.
But if downing Maß after Maß of beer in a tent with hundreds of tourists isn't your scene, here are a few other things happening around Germany during the autumn months:
1. October 3rd – German Unity Day
An annual celebration of the day in 1990 when two Germanys officially became one, German Unity Day is a public holiday. Of course, this year it falls on a Saturday, so most of us won't feel the benefit of an extra day off work.
Either way, it's a day of partying and celebration across Germany. You'll find post offices, banks and many shops remain closed throughout the day, while in Berlin a big party sets up around the iconic Brandenburg Gate.
With live bands, food, drinks and fairground attractions, the annual three-day festival is not one to miss – especially this year, which marks the 25th anniversary of this historical turning point.
2. October 2nd-18th – Berlin Shines
The theatre in Berlin's Gendarmenmarkt lit up for 2014's Berlin Shines festival. Photo: DPA
One of two dazzling illumination festivals in the capital, Berlin Shines – or Berlin Leuchtet – adds a bit of brightness to what can often be a dull time of year.
During the festival, some of the city's lesser-known but important buildings and structures are given a splash of colour – with a mix of light installations, lasers, video and 3D projections. Musical performances, fireworks and guided tours round off this city-wide phenomenon.
3. October 9th-18th – Berlin Festival of Lights
Berlin Cathedral lit up for the 2014 Festival of Lights. Photo: DPA
It may be a week shorter, but Berlin's other illumination festival lights up what feels like the whole of the city. From the Brandenburg Gate to Berlin Cathedral, the Berlin Festival of Lights cloaks everything it touches in light and colour – creating a truly spectacular show.
The festival's currently in its tenth year. However, the 2015 show is set to raise the stakes, as six artists from across the world compete to create the most dazzling display and pick up the first ever Festival of Lights award.
4. October 14th-18th – Frankfurt Book Fair
Visitors flock to the 2013 Frankfurt Book Fair. Photo: DPA
The announcement of the 2015 German Book Prize winner will kick off the event, famed as the world's largest book fair.
From signings, interviews and performances to workshops and cooking demonstrations, events are held in numerous different languages. One for lovers of literature everywhere.
5. October 24th – Museum Night in Cologne
Cologne Cathedral at night. Photo: DPA
Kicking off at 7pm and continuing through the night, the 15th annual Museum Night in Cologne promises a night of exploration, excitement and discovery.
Spanning 46 locations and over 200 events, the Museum Night promises visitors the chance to experience art in new ways, in a truly unique atmosphere across the whole city.
The locations are connected by five shuttle bus routes, and a single ticket earns visitors access to all of the exhibitions, plus free travel on the bus all night.
Sounds like a perfect night in the cultural metropolis of Cologne.
6. November 11th – the beginning of Carnival Season
“Hoppeditz' Awakening” marks the start of carnival season in Düsseldorf. Photo: DPA
From November 11th until the following Ash Wednesday each year, Germany is alive with carnival spirit.
Rather confusingly, the celebrations have different names across Germany – while Cologne and Düsseldorf celebrate the start of Karneval on November 11th, for Berlin and Bavaria it's Fasching, and the Black Forest you'll find yourself welcoming in Fasnacht.
Either way, this very special day in November marks the beginning of carnival celebrations across Germany. From televised street parades in Cologne to the awakening of jester “Hoppeditz” in Düsseldorf, the Germans definitely know how to welcome in carnival season with a bang.
SEE ALSO: The Local's guide to Karneval
7. November 11th – St Martin's Day
Children carry lanterns during the 2011 St Martin's Day procession in Berlin. Photo: DPA
As if the launch of nationwide carnivals wasn't enough, November 11th is also the day of one of Germany's lesser-known religious traditions.
The event is a celebration of modesty and altruism – both qualities associated with St Martin of Tours, to whom the day is dedicated. However, it's also a chance to get together for evening lantern parades through towns and cities, followed by songs, sweet pastries and mulled wine (Glühwein) around a bonfire.
The celebration is particularly popular with children, many of whom build their own lanterns for the parades.
SEE ALSO: Celebrating St. Martin's Day in Germany
By Hannah Butler