Harvest Festival (or Harvest Thanksgiving) is a day when people celebrate and give thanks for the harvest. This is the time when farmers collect the crops from the fields. In churches, it is usually held on the Sunday nearest the harvest moon. A harvest moon is the full moon nearest to the autumn equinox. This year, the harvest moon is on the night of 24th-25th September and the harvest festival is on Sunday 23rd, but not everyone celebrates it on the same day.
Before Christianity came to Britain, pagan people gave thanks to the gods for the harvest. The first English people to settle in America took the idea of saying thanks for the harvest with them and this later became Thanksgiving, which is held in November.
In Britain, Harvest Festival became part of the church calendar in the middle of the nineteenth century. On this day, people go to church and thank God for providing us with food, and for the sun and rain which makes the crops grow. They sing songs and hymns and they might take food to the church, especially fruit and vegetables or maybe some homemade bread but also tinned food. This might be taken to poorer families and elderly people who live nearby, or it might be donated to a food bank. People also think about those in other countries who are less fortunate.
Some primary schools have their own harvest festival. I remember doing this when I was a child. We used to sing “We plough the fields”. It’s a hymn that came from Germany originally but has been translated into English. It starts like this:
We plough the fields, and scatter the good seed on the land;
But it is fed and watered by God's almighty hand:
He sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain.
All good gifts around us
Are sent from heaven above,
Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord
For all His love.
I have lived in towns and cities all my life and this is probably not a very important time of year for city people. In fact, a lot of people nowadays don’t think much about where food comes from or even know about it! Some children don’t know that beef comes from an animal and carrots grow in the ground. In the countryside, it is a much more important time of year. Some churches and villages have a harvest supper. This might be a bring-and-share meal where everyone brings a dish to share, or just a few people cook the food and tickets are sold to cover the cost.
the harvest = 1. fruit, vegetables and grain when they are collected from the fields or 2. the time of year when this happens
to harvest = to collect the fruit, vegetables and grain
crops = plants that we grow for food
field = an area of land on a farm for growing food or keeping animals
full moon = when the whole moon can be seen
equinox = when we have the same hours of day and night
autumn equinox = September 22nd or 23rd
pagan = a person who worships many gods, especially someone who lived before the main world religions
19th century = 1800-1899
hymn = a religious song which is sung in church
elderly = old
donate = give
food bank = a place which collects food for people who don’t have much money
plough = to dig the land to prepare it for planting seeds
seed = part of a plant which will grow into a new plant
almighty = having the power to do anything
swell = get bigger
grain = seeds from wheat, rice, oats etc.
breeze = a light and gently wind
You may notice several uses of the passive:
Food is taken to poorer families. (= People take food to poorer families.)
Food might be donated to a food bank. (= People might donate food to a food bank.)
It is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand. (= God’s almighty hand feeds and waters it.)
All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above. (= God sends all good gifts.)
Tickets are sold to cover the cost. (= People sell tickets to cover the cost.)
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