Harvest Festivals.

Celebrating the harvest is a ritual that goes way back to pagan times. People gave thanks to the spirit of the corn for a harvest safely gathered in. At that time people believed the spirit of the god lived in the crop itself and would die when the last stalks were cut unless certain rituals were followed.
 The task for cutting the last stand of corn was often a shared experience so that the burden wouldn't fall to any one person


 In many places the last sheath of corn was dressed up in ladies clothing and bedecked with ribbons and flowers and given honour as the corn dolly. This doll was often carried home and hung in the barn to  watch over the threshing of the cprn. She would also be taken to the harvest supper and then brought into the farmhouse over winter. In spring some grains taken from the corn doll would be mixed with the new grains and sown back into the fields.

 Our long summer holidays are a throwback to our agricultural past when bringing  the harvest home was a family affair with everyone roped in. Neighbour would gather with Neighbour and go into the fields to help cut the corn. The horses and wagons would be decked out with ribbons and flowers and this was a very joyful affair.

As time progressed and Christianity came to these fair isles the Church saw the importance of the harvest for the survival of these communities and would ring the Church bells as the last load was brought safely home. The local village priest would then go and bless the crops and the corn dolly was often hung on the church door.

Harvest time began at Lammas,  the name which comes from an Old Anglo Saxon word Llaf-masses a title that means loaf mass. This fell on August 1st, and in some country parishes a loaf was baked with the first batch of newly harvested grain and brought to church to be blessed.

The Harvest festival was  traditionally held on the Sunday nearest to the Harvest Moon. This is the full Moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox which is usually near September 23rd. Two years out of three, the Harvest Moon comes in September, but in some years it occurs in October.

Although, today far fewer people are involved in bringing the harvest home, the harvest is still celebrated. Many churches have special services. The parishioners decorate the church with beautiful flower arrangements, often using corn, brambles, and rose hips collected from the hedge rows. Apples, pears, potatoes and many other foods are brought into the Church and laid out at the foot of the altar. After this has been blessed it is distributed to those in need often via food banks and homeless shelters. This is usually followed by a harvest supper where the community can gather to celebrate,rejoice and give thanks for another harvest.