The Christian Harvest Festival
Festivals marking the gathering in of the harvest - with feasting and
dancing - are very ancient. But celebrating the harvest with a special
church service, thanking God for the bounty of the earth, is a Victorian
idea. In the Victorian tradition, many churches and chapels are still
today decorated, one weekend in September or early October, with sheaves
of corn, bread baked in special shapes & fruit and vegetables. There
are special harvest hymns. The best known is perhaps: 'We plough
the fields and scatter, The good seed on the land...' which is a
translation from a German source and was written by Jane Montgomery
Campbell ( 1817-1878) the daughter of a clegyman. Some congregations
follow the service with a harvest supper.
Harvest in Judaism
Succot or the Feast of Tabernacles Succot is a family festival which
lasts for seven days and is held in September or October during the
first month of the Jewish new year. In 2004 it begins on 30 September.
It marks the end of the harvest and is a time to thank God for providing
food. An outdoor dining room is set up, in a tent or under an awning
but, best of all, under a roof of branches since orthodox Jews believe
that they ought to be able to see the sky. (Some nowadays convert their
garages into a dining room.)This is a way of remembering that the Children
of Israel ate out of doors and slept outside or in tents during their
journeying in the wilderness. Some Jewish families choose to sleep,
as well as to eat, in their 'booth' during the festival. Friends are
often invited to eat with the family. Favourite Succot meals include
chicken soup with dumplings and noodles, chopped liver baked with onions
and egg, or stuffed cabbage leaves. Fruits, especially pomegranates
and figs, are eaten.
More details about Succot.
The Thai Buddhist Ploughing Festival
Some religious festivals mark the sowing, rather than the harvesting
of crops. This is the case with the Thai Rice-Ploughing Festival which
is held in Bankok May. Just as oats, wheat and barley are important
in some countries,. rice is a staple food in others and people's well
being depends on a good rice crop. A statue of Buddha looks down on
the rice-ploughing and Buddhist monks sit cross-legged beside the statue.
White oxen draw a specially-decorated plough, followed by a procession
of people waving banners or playing musical instruments. The Lord of
the Festival then ploughs three short furrows and rice seeds are then
sown in the furrows. There are special rituals connected with the festival.
The Lord of the Festival chooses one of three lengths of cloth, not
knowing which length each is but as a means of predicting how much rain
there will be. The oxen are offered bowls of rice, beans, maize, sesame
or hay, water or alcohol. What they choose first to eat is taken as
a prediction of which crop will flourish best.
The Hindu Festival of Holi or Colours
It is believed that the Hindu festival of Holi has developed from olden
times and began as a harvest festival. It takes place in the Spring,
at the time of the full moon, and is marked by bonfires, processions,
dancing and other entertainments. But it is also a time when Spring
crops are harvested and there is thanksgiving for food and a presentation
of gifts to the god Krishna. Holi is also marked by feasting. Most Hindus
are vegetarians. Before a family meal, a little of each dish will be
presented at the family shrine. When it has been blessed, it will be
taken back to the table and mixed with the other food which the family
is going to eat.
More details of Holi
The Islamic Festival of Id-ul-Fitr
The festival of Id-ul-Fitr has been described as the most joyous festival
in the Islamic calendar. It marks the end of Ramadan, the month during
which Muslims observe a fast during the hours of daylight. It celebrates
the good things that can come about through fasting: the way people
have decided to live better lives. So it is a time of renewal. Not surprisingly
a festive meal - perhaps a dish of halal meat such as lamb, and rice,
followed by sweetmeats - is an important part of the Id-ul-Fitr celebration.
But a visit to the mosque, and prayers, are also at the centre of the
festival. Muslims do not forget the poor and those with money give a
welfare payment so that the poorest people can also enjoy a feast. Some
may give food instead. More about Ramadan
The Sikh Festival of Guru Nanak's birthday
Sikhs mark the birthday of their founder, the teacher, or guru, Nanak,
in November. For a period of 48 hours the Sikh scriptures, the Guru
Granth Sahib, is read in the gurdwara, the place of worship. A festival
meal is prepared in the kitchen of the gurdwara. On the birthday itself
there is a procession through the streets with the Guru Granth Sahib
carried on silk cushions. Guru Nank, and Sikh teaching, are at the heart
of this festival, but food has its place. Arialce-Ploughing Festival
which is held in Bankok May. Just as oats, wheat and barley are important
in some countries,.