18 (Hebrew Calendar: 1 Tishri, 5762)
Rosh Hashanah (Judaism)
27 (Hebrew Calendar: 10 Tishri, 5762)
Yom Kippur (Judaism)
Rosh Hashanah, or "head of the year," is a sober day when it is believed that God judges each individual's actions from the past year. A person's fate is determined on Rosh Hashanah but is not "sealed" until Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, so the days in between offer opportunities for repentance and changes in behavior. On Yom Kippur, the only fast day that is never rescheduled to avoid conflict with Shabbat, Jews fast for 24 hours, abstain from sexual relations and do not wear leather. (It is believed that a person cannot entreat God for forgiveness while wearing the skin of another creature.) From sundown to sundown, there are five services in the synagogue; during the final one, the Ark is opened and the congregation often stands for the entire service. Although Yom Kippur is the most solemn day of the Jewish year, it is also a joyous time, for the holiday emphasizes the proximity and mercy of God. The fall holiday cycle is completed with the eight-day festival of Sukkoth (October 2-9).
Recommended Reading:
The Jewish YearGeorge Robinson's Essential Judaism: A Complete Guide to Beliefs, Customs, and Rituals explains in detail all the Jewish holidays and life-cycle rituals. This classic, comprehensive book was reissued by Pocket earlier this month in paperback. Shimon Apisdorf's Judaism in a Nutshell: Holidays (Leviathan, Sept.) traces the origins of all the Jewish holidays and explains their significance in just under 100 pages. For sheer beauty, don't miss The Jewish Year: Celebrating the Holidays (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, Apr.) by Barbara Rush. Interspersed with the ancient midrashim and historical explanations are examples of art by the likes of Marc Chagall, Michal Meron and Harry Lieberman.

October 28
Kathina Day (Theravada Buddhism)
During Kathina, a major Buddhist festival in Thailand and other Theravada nations, Buddhist laypersons express their gratitude to monks for keeping Buddhism alive. People bring gifts to the monasteries, such as cloth for new robes, and the monks offer blessings. Prior to Kathina, many monks spend the rainy months of September and October in an intense period called Vassa, when they are expected to adhere even more strictly than usual to monastic disciplines. Kathina marks the culmination of this rigorous period, and is the cause of great rejoicing. A special ceremony occurs in Bangkok, where the king of Thailand is rowed to Wat Arun ("the temple of dawn") to offer cloth to the monks.
Recommended Reading:
In Buddhism in America (Columbia Univ.), Richard Hughes Seagar explores the vitality of the major Buddhist traditions in the U.S., including Theravada. The varieties of American Buddhism have also been explored in James William Coleman's The New Buddhism: The Western Transformation of an Ancient Tradition (Oxford, Apr.), which argues that a hybrid tradition called "American Buddhism" is now being born. New Yorkers will find Jeff Wilson's The Buddhist Guide to New York (St. Martin's) to be a useful guide to meditation centers and temples in the New York metropolitan area.

October 31
All Hallow's Eve (Halloween) (Christianity)
Samhain (Wicca)
Halloween (contracted from "All Hallow's Eve") began as the pagan festival of Samhain. Christians juxtaposed their tradition of All Saints Day (November 1) with Samhain to appropriate elements of the pagan holiday and reinterpret it. Halloween retained some of the pagan traditions, particularly the festival's emphases on death and ghosts. Certain customs--such as carving jack-o-lanterns--harken back to the holiday's earliest origins. The practice of dressing in costumes suggests an ancient belief that evil spirits could be easily confused; when people disguised themselves, the spirits would not recognize them and would leave them alone. In the early 20th century, the American Halloween was reinvented as a holiday for children, and the popular custom of trick-or-treating took hold.
Recommended Reading:
Celebrations That Touch the HeartFor bewitching party ideas, try Leslie Pratt Bannatyne's A Halloween How-To: Costumes, Parties, Decorations and Destinations (Pelican, Aug.), which has copious suggestions for guises, decorations, recipes, music, films, and expeditions. Neo-pagans will find Jean Markale's The Pagan Mysteries of Halloween: Celebrating the Dark Half of the Year (Inner Traditions, Sept.) an interesting explanation of the history and customs of Samhain. Brenda Poinsett offers Christians some ideas for observing Halloween in Celebrations That Touch the Heart: Making Meaning the Centerpiece of Your Holidays and Special Events (WaterBrook, Oct.).

October 31
All Souls Day/Dia de los Muertos
(Christianity in Mexico)
The Latino Holiday BookMexicans use the traditional Christian observance of All Souls Day as El Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. Families bring special skull-shaped cakes and cookies to bring to the graves of relatives. Some parts of Mexico still observe October 30 as a separate day of remembering "Los Angelitos," the children who have died.
Recommended Reading:
The Latino Holiday Book by Valerie Menard explores Hispanic-American holidays such as Cinco de Mayo and Día de los Muertos (Marlowe & Company).