Harvest Festival is a celebration of the food grown on the land.
Thanksgiving ceremonies and celebrations for a successful harvest are both worldwide and very ancient. In Britain, we have given thanks for successful harvests since pagan times. We celebrate this day by singing, praying and decorating our churches with baskets of fruit and food in a festival known as 'Harvest Festival', usually during the month of September.
Harvest Festival reminds Christians of all the good things God gives them. This makes them want to share with others who are not so fortunate. In schools and in Churches, people bring food from home to a Harvest Festival Service. After the service, the food that has been put on display is usually made into parcels and given to people in need.
The Harvest Moon
Normally falling towards the end of September, or early October, the harvest festival is the closest thing we have to a day of thanksgiving. Although today we can plan a fixed day for this celebration, in the past the harvest festival differed, based on when all the crops had been brought in. The whole community, including children, needed to help right up until the end, as lives depended on the success of the harvest.
In the past they would be held as soon as the harvest had been completed and the final cartload triumphantly returned to the farm where the Harvest Supper, also known as the ‘Harvest Home’, would take place.
Farmers made loaves of bread from the new wheat crop and gave them to their local church. They were then used as the Communion bread during a special mass thanking God for the harvest.
At the start of the harvest, communities would appoint a strong and respected man of the village as their 'Lord of the Harvest'. He would be responsible for negotiating the harvest wages and organising the fieldworkers.
Harvest Corn Dolls
Symbolic corn dolls, made out of the last sheath of the harvest, were placed on banquet tables when parishes had their huge feasts. The doll was then kept until the spring to ensure the continuation of a good crop next year.
The corn dolls would often be kept above the hearth and, in order to guarantee the success of the next harvest, ploughed back into the land the following Plough Monday.
Victorian hymns such as "We plough the fields and scatter", "Come ye thankful people, come" and "All things bright and beautiful" helped popularise his idea of harvest festival and spread the annual custom of decorating churches with home-grown produce for the Harvest Festival service.