With modernization and transportation, foods that were once found only at certain times of the year can now be enjoyed all year. And as more people have better access to markets and grocery stores, there are fewer people who must grow their own crops. But this is a problem too. Since few of us still grow crops, we’ve lost that direct relationship to the earth, to the food that keeps us alive and healthy. We’ve created a disconnect.
This makes harvest festivals more important than ever. For those that may not be familiar with harvest festivals, they are a time to celebrate and give thanks for the abundance of being blessed with a good food crop. These special days are reserved to honor the earth and/or deity for providing us with their blessings and bounty. Such festivals are celebrated throughout many cultures around the world and we’ll look at a few in this blog post.
The Festival of Yams
This occurs after the rainy season in August or September when the harvested yams are offered first to the gods and ancestors. It is a point of pride to be the family with the largest crop of yams. The celebration lasts days and includes singing, dancing, contests and dishes made from the yams.
This occurs during the spring to honor Min, god of vegetation and fertility. Spring is the harvest period for Egyptians. In ancient times, the Pharaoh would have participated in the festival by cutting the first sheaf of grain, representing Pharaoh’s role as life sustainer of the people.
Festival of Thesmophoria
This occurs in autumn to honor Demeter, the goddess of all grains. This three-day long celebration includes erecting shelters and decorating them, fasting, feasting and gifts offered to Demeter in the hopes she will bless the people with a good harvest.
Harvest Moon Festival
This occurs on August 15th and continues throughout the fall to give thanks for the harvest and to honor the ancestors. Families show reverence to the ancestors by offering fall foods and tending to their burial sites. Many additional activities are planned and carried out during this time.
This occurs on the 4th Thursday of November. People may think that it has always been a festival. However, what it actually represents in the U.S. is the thankfulness of pilgrims who came to America without much and were fed by the Native Americans with fall ripened foods.
Harvest festivals reconnect us with nature, our family, and our ancestors. And the beauty of harvest festivals is that there are so many, you can give thanks for just about anything. You are free to choose any festival that speaks to you, be it one from your culture or another that appeals to your heart. Learn about other cultures, learn about your food, learn about yourself.
Until next time, discover the power of harvest festivals.