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Harvest Festivals

Harvest Festivals from Around the World

    German Harvest Festival

    In Germany they hold a harvest festival devoted to the shepherds and cowherds who would return from the mountains. The animals are covered with flowers, and the villagers put on their national costumes to welcome the procession.

    In Germany, peasants used to break the first straws of hay brought into the barns saying, "This is food for the dead."

    Also in Germany they celebrate the harvest festival known as Oktoberfest which is the end of the grape harvest. Where grape-growing and wine-making go on, a green branch or bush is hung over the door when it comes time for the wine tasting.

    The Oktoberfest festivities are officially opened when the Lord Mayor taps the first barrel of beer. A large parade of colorfully decorated brewers' drays and magnificent floats brings the festivities to an exciting climax on the first Sunday of October. Beer tents erected for the occasion provide an unending supply of drink and food and a carnival atmosphere permeates the entire festival.

    In Germany the Erntedanktag is an official holiday. Harvest Festivals are celebrated in churches and market places, in homes and dance halls. Religious holiday traditions are a part of the local culture and are enjoyed by the whole community.

    The German Erntedankfest is primarily a rural and a religious celebration. When it is celebrated in larger cities, it is usually part of a church service.

    Erntedankfest is often celebrated on the first Sunday in October, which is usually also the first Sunday following Michaelistag or Michaelmas which is 29 Sept, but, various locales may give thanks at different times during September and October.

    Erntedankfest is not a big day of family get-togethers and feasting, but, there are some turkey substitutes, usually so-called Masthühnchen, or chickens bred to be fattened up for more meat. Der Kapaun is a castrated rooster that is fed until he's heavier than the average rooster. Die Poularde is the hen equivalent, a sterilized pullet that is also fattened up.

    A "harvest crown" or Erntekrone is formed of ears of grain, flowers and fruit is taken to church in solemn procession. Mostly the celebration includes the blessing of gifts, a parish celebration and/or morning drinking festivals also known as Frühschoppen.

    German Catholics also 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.

    Protestant Germans later on celebrated the Feast of Saint Martin in honor of the German religious leader and founder of Protestantism, Martin Luther, who was born on November 10th 1483 and was named after Saint Martin of Tours.

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