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. 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.
Harvest Festival used to be celebrated at the beginning of the Harvest season and was called Lammas, meaning 'loaf Mass'. 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.
The end of the harvest was celebrated with a big meal called a Harvest Supper. The 'Lord of the Harvest' sat at the head of the table. A goose stuffed with apples was eaten along with a variety of vegetables.
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.
The tradition of celebrating Harvest Festival in churches as we know it today began in 1843, when the Reverend Robert Hawker invited parishioners to a special thanksgiving service for the harvest at his church at Morwenstow in Cornwall. 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.
Jewish Harvest Festival
The Jewish Harvest Festival is called Sukkot or 'Feast of Ingathering' or 'the 'Feast of Tabernacles'. It is celebrated at the end of the year, after Rosh Hoshanah, the third of the great Annual Festivals.