Harvest Festival, it's Origins and Celebrations around the World
Traditionally a Harvest Festival is celebration that takes place at the end of a growing season to give thanks for the food grown on the land. Harvest celebrations have been performed for centuries all over the world and can include singing, prayer, and the giving of food to those less fortunate. The celebration has a variety of names depending on where in the world it occurs.
Young Mans Favor Made from Barley
Harvest Festival in the UK
In the UK thanks has been given for successful harvests since pagan times. The modern Harvest Festival is often celebrated in churches and schools in the form of singing, decorating and collecting of food baskets. Churches are decorated in greenery and autumn flowers and collections of fruits, vegetables, bread and other goods are displayed. A service is often held, then the foods collected are distributed to families in need. Although not an official national holiday, it is widely celebrated as both a thank you for the good crops and as a way to help those less fortunate. It is a time for service and community spirit.
Traditionally held on the Sunday closest to the Harvest moon, the date moves from year to year, but generally falls in September. There are many traditions based on the celebration of harvest. Corn dollies or straw work are a traditional craft created at this time of year. Regions have their own unique designs usually made from straw.
There are two main uses for this artwork. The first being based on the belief that the spirit of the corn lived in the wheat. By making a corn dolly out of the wheat the spirit is kept alive. The dolly is then hung in the barn or church until the next spring. It would then be ploughed back into the soil when seeding for the next crop, returning the spirit to the corn. The other use is as a countryman's favor. Often a braid of three straws tied into a loose knot to represent a heart would be given by a young man to his loved one. If she was wearing it next to her heart when he saw her again then he would know that his love was returned.
Other traditions include a large feast held at the farmers house, the ringing of church bells, decorating the horse and cart bringing in the last harvested load and baking a loaf of bread with the first batch of harvested corn.
Example of a School Harvest Festival Celebration
Thanksgiving in the US
Thanksgiving in the US is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. Children are taught that the tradition comes from the first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims at Plymouth MA. They gave thanks for their first successful harvest in 1621. Modern Thanksgiving is a time for family,Turkey and Pumpkin Pie. Many celebrate the day watching or participating in Football, watching the Macy's Parade and fighting the crowds at the Black Friday sales.
Thanksgiving in Canada
Also called Thanksgiving, this celebration dates back to 1578 when the explorer Martin Frobisher arrived in Newfoundland Canada. The celebration is very similar to that in the US, A time to focus on family and food.
China's Mid- Autumn Moon Festival
Celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, traditionally thought to be the day when the moon is at its brightest and roundest. A giant feast is enjoyed with a traditional moon cake the pastry of which is made from harvested rice flour and then filled with either a sweet or savory filling.
Mid-Autumn Moon Festival
Other Harvest Celebrations
late September/early October
First Thursday in November
Homowo (Yam )
Between May and August
Last Sunday in February
Chantaburi Fruit Fair
3rd week in October
Maderia Flower Festival
2 weeks after Easter
Historical Harvest Celebrations
Cecelia - Roman harvest celebration dedicated to the honor of the god Ceres the goddess of corn. Held on October 4th, the first fruits of the harvest would be offered to Ceres, and a feast, games and parades were held.
Min - ancient Egyptians celebrated harvest in the Spring to honor the god of fertility and vegetation of the same name.
Succoth - still celebrated in Israel today, this ancient celebration dates back to the time when Hebrews travelled to Israel and how they stopped along the journey setting up booths along the way. Farmers lived in these temporary buildings at harvest time.
Wherever the celebration occurs, they all follow the same theme of being thankful.