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Harvest Festivals

Harvest Festivals from Around the World

    English Harvest Festival

    In England the harvest festival is called the harvest home. This festival usually takes place during September. Offerings of fruit and vegetables are placed around the altar for a thanksgiving service that would make sure there was a good crop for the next year. After the service the offerings are given to those less fortunate.

    The Harvest Home festival is held at the end of September once all harvesting of all crops has been finished. People take great pride in decorating the churches and often keep the best of the harvest for this festival.

    The altar in the churches is decorated with vases which hold autumn leaves, berries and flowers and special tables are set up to hold the offerings that people bring. There are pumpkins, cabbages, baskets of fruit and vegetables of all kinds. Sometimes the window ledges are used to display the results of harvest.

    People also come to church to say prayers of thanks and sing hymns. At the end of the service the produce that has been left as offerings are each blessed and sent to hospitals for the sick and needy. Also in some places at the end of the day there is a Harvest Home supper after which people dance and have a band play.

    History tells of how villages belonged to rich landowners as part of their estates and that the villagers were employed to farm and cultivate his gardens.

    The harvest festival was held as a way of thanking the gods for a good harvest. It was also a way of thanking his employees for all their hard work. The harvest was supplied by the landowner.

    In North Shields for thanksgiving it is called the "Blessing of the water or Boats" the reason for this was they were relying on fishing for their livings. The boats are blessed in open air service. While in other places the churches are decorated with fishing equipment.

    Also in parts of England they celebrate Lammas also known as the Celebration of Bread, the preparation of bread as a primary staple is a ritual in and of itself. It is the time of year when they celebrate the passing summer and lean into fall, storing their goods and thanking the Gods/Goddesses for a plentiful harvest and asking them for a safe winter.

    In village churches in England sheaves of wheat were offered alongside leaves on the altar, and parishioners brought their own consecrated bread back home.

    Another traditional Harvest festival celebrated every year in churches, chapels and school was only started in 1843.

    The person who is said to have restarted the celebration was Vicar Robert Stephen Hawker of Morwenstow in Cornwall. He invited all his parishioners to gather together to receive the bread of the new corn.

    This event drew a large congregation who found their church decorated with fruit and flowers for what was the first modern Harvest Festival.

    Today’s harvest is celebrated on a Sunday during the main service of the day. The date for harvest festival is set well in advance instead of waiting for the last of the harvest to be bought in. This is because it is no longer labor intensive with even the Children helping to gather the crops as machinery has taken over.

    Often there is a harvest supper the night before when all the parishioners bring a dish to share with others. The church is not so highly decorated today, flowers, fruit and vegetables still dominate the displays but you will not find any words created out of them.

    English Catholics celebrate the Feast of Saint Martin of Tours or as it is also known Martinmas, held on November 11. This feast was held to honor the Hungarian saint who, as legend goes, hid in a barn when he heard he had been appointed a bishop and believed he did not earn such an honor. A honking goose as legend goes was to reveal his hiding place, so roast goose became a traditional dish for Martinmas feast, along with wine made from the grape harvest.

    As well the day held elements of the Halloween tradition with children marching in parades carrying homemade lanterns.

    Also in England they hold a festival known as St. Michael's Mass or Michaelmas and it is held on September 29. Fairs with markets and games, especially horseracing are associated. It is associated with the color gold, all the harvest colors, the harvest and bounty of the land, and the sacred king.

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