In Britain, at about the autumn equinox (22 or 23 September), the harvest festival takes place in various regions. Celebrations on this day usually include singing hymns, praying, and decorating churches with baskets of fruit and food in the festival known under a variety of names such as Harvest Festival, Harvest Home, Harvest Thanksgiving or Harvest Festival of Thanksgiving.
Harvest festivals occur all around the world to mark the beginning of crop harvesting. These festivities were done in order to thank the Gods for providing a bumper crop and hoping that the following year’s crop yield would be better. As people in the early ages were more closer to the “Earth” and believed the Earth was the source of birth and death, celebrations such as harvests, births, beginning of rains and deaths were very important.
On the National Geographic site, identified are 10 world festivals. Which ones of these have you attended? I have attended the Incwala festival in Swaziland. At 11, I have included an image from the Umhlanga festival, also performed in Swaziland. I adore the colours of the national costume the girls wear.
Can you rank them in order of the most cultural, relevant and colourful?
1.Thanksgiving, Plimoth Plantation, Massachusetts
Thanksgiving, a U.S. holiday on the fourth Thursday of November, originated in the fall of 1621, when Pilgrims celebrated their successful wheat crop and overflowing store cupboards with a three-day feast. The hosts shared their meal of partridge, wild turkey, and fish with the Massasoit and Wampanoag Native American tribes. Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863.
2.Vendimia, Mendoza, Argentina
On the final Sunday of February, the Archbishop of Mendoza sprinkles the season’s first grapes with holy water and offers the new vintage to God, setting off a month of celebrations in Argentina’s Mendoza region. Crowds line the streets to watch a parade of competing beauty queens atop their regional floats, and the festival culminates with a spectacular show at the amphi-theater—musicians, entertainers, and dancers take to the stage before a Harvest Queen is chosen amid a backdrop of spectacular fireworks.
3. Rice Harvest, Bali, Indonesia
Dewi Sri, the rice goddess, is venerated as a matter of course in Bali, where rice is the staple crop. During the harvest, villages are festooned with flags, and simple bamboo temples dedicated to the goddess are erected in the upstream, most sacred corners of the rice fields. Small dolls of rice stalks representing Dewi Sri are placed in granaries as offerings.
4.Chanthaburi Fruit Fair, Chanthaburi, Thailand
Chanthaburi is known for gemstones—and for its profusion of beautiful native fruits, as colourful as jewels. During the summer harvest, the annual Fruit Fair exhibits exotic durians, rambutans, longans, and mangosteens in vibrant arrangements as elaborate as Buddhist mandalas. There are produce competitions and art displays, and the opening-day parade features floats made from thousands of tropical fruits and vegetables.
5. Sukkot, Jerusalem, Israel Sukkot celebrates Israel’s bountiful harvests and recalls the time when the Israelites wandered the desert living in temporary shelters. Families build makeshift huts, or sukkah, with roofs open to the sky. Here they eat, and sometimes sleep, for the next seven days. Wands of willow, myrtle, and palm, together with a citron (a kind of lemon), are shaken every day in all directions to honour the gifts from the land.
6.Blessing of the Sea, Greece At Epiphany, which recalls the visit of the three Wise Men to the infant Jesus, processions set off from local churches to the ocean, where a priest blesses a gold cross before hurling it into the waves. Men leap in to be first to retrieve it; the victor achieves grace, and banishes old spirits from the new year.
7.Olivagando, Magione, Italy Magione’s two-day festival in November celebrates both the feast day of St. Clement and the local olive harvest, bringing together everyone involved in the production of olive oil. A priest blesses the new oil at a special Mass, and the town hosts a lavish medieval dinner at its 12th-century castle.
8.Lammas Festival, U.K. Lammas marks the beginning of the harvest season, when food is abundant and the light begins to wane. Early Britons baked bread from the new crop to leave on church altars, and corn dolls decorated bounteous feast tables.
9.Madeira Flower Festival, Madeira, Portugal
Funchal’s April flower festival fills the air with fragrance and marks the arrival of spring. Each of the island’s children brings a bloom to create the colourful Muro da Esperança (Wall of Hope), and intricate flower carpets line the streets.
10.Incwala, Swaziland In late December, men journey to the sea to gather water so Incwala can begin. Branches from the sacred lusekwane tree are woven into a bower for the king, and only when he eats the first fruit can his people partake of the harvest.