Harvest Festival in the US, UK, Canada

Can anyone tell me the differences between how Harvest Festival is celebrated between the three countries, my understanding is that in the UK, there is no common, official date for Harvest Festival? As well, unlike the US Thanksgiving, Harvest Festival in the UK and Canada is not tied to a specific concrete event in history.

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  • We have harvest festivals all through August and a few in September. When the harvest is going on, no one has time as the harvest continues through at least all of October. Our harvest festivals include agricultural displays, a fair with various rides and games, competitions in all manner of baking, pickling, and growing of vegetables. Some festivals also have a flower competition. Some have a pageant with local young women participating in activities and winning "Miss......" for the coming year. All have music and various food and shows.
    Thanksgiving here always reflects the harvest with churches often being decorated with vegetables, corn stalks, straw or hay bales, etc. The cornucopia figures prominently and hymns are all around the theme of thanksgiving for the crops. There is not a one time event that prompted the celebration. More so that harvest time is a good time to be thankful. And you get to eat and there is lots to eat then.
  • Harvest Festival in Britain is a relatively recent innovation. It was started by the eccentric Robert Hawker, Vicar of Morwenstow in Cornwall, who in September 1843 informed his flock that the old custom of making Communion bread from the first corn would be revived and a special Sunday of thanksgiving observed. His notice read: "Let us gather together in the chancel of our church, and there receive, in the bread of the new corn, that blessed sacrament which was ordained to strengthen and refresh our souls". The first service was held on 1st October that year and the custom soon spread. Clearly it "touched a chord", either because it fitted in well with the sentiments of the Oxford Movement or because it resonated with people in as rapidly urbanising society - a reminder of where they'd come from, perhaps.

    Usually Harvest is celebrated in churches towards the end of September or the beginning of October. Traditionally produce is gathered and distributed to the "needy", often these days a local homelessness project or foodbank. There has been a trend for churches to feel a little bit "guilty" about celebrating such abundance when they know ,many people live in poverty, so often Harvest Services today will include news of a "developing world" project run by Christian Aid or similar. Some folk think that harvest services are an anachronistic sentimentality these days, and they can be; however they can serve to remind urban churches especially of our dependence on God, of where food comes from, and of the need to pray for the farming community which often faces hard times. Personally I'd like to bring these services forward to late August as the corn harvest is usually gathered in by then nowadays, however this would be problematic in England and Wales as that's very much holiday time still (but not so in Scotland where schools start up earlier).
  • There isn't really a nation-wide festival except Thanksgiving in the US. There are various local events, though. Corn mazes and apple-picking are a big thing where I am. Pumpkin picking is popular in the lead-up to Halloween. In areas with a lot of East Asian families the mid-Autumn festival, which started today, might be publicly celebrated.
  • The parish where I play observes all the old festivals: Plough Sunday, Rogation, Lammas (which is 1st August and is what some churches think of as Harvest) and Harvest, which we keep at Michaelmas since it marks the start of autumn. We are a very rural parish: even now the main occupation of those in the parish who are waged is in some way connected with agriculture or market gardening. Lammas is when the wheat harvest is celebrated but Michaelmas marks the end of all the harvests and so is more appropriate for a general "harvest" celebration.

    So, Harvest for us this year will be 29th September - we have gone as late as the first Sunday in October but prefer to keep that as our Dedication Festival.
  • LeafLeaf Shipmate
    Lily Pad wrote: »
    We have harvest festivals all through August and a few in September. When the harvest is going on, no one has time as the harvest continues through at least all of October. Our harvest festivals include agricultural displays, a fair with various rides and games, competitions in all manner of baking, pickling, and growing of vegetables. Some festivals also have a flower competition. Some have a pageant with local young women participating in activities and winning "Miss......" for the coming year. All have music and various food and shows.
    Thanksgiving here always reflects the harvest with churches often being decorated with vegetables, corn stalks, straw or hay bales, etc. The cornucopia figures prominently and hymns are all around the theme of thanksgiving for the crops. There is not a one time event that prompted the celebration. More so that harvest time is a good time to be thankful. And you get to eat and there is lots to eat then.

    This isn't really what is meant by Harvest festival in church, though. You are thinking of community harvest festivals.

    IME of some Canadian Anglicans, Harvest is a church observance celebrated separately from Canadian Thanksgiving. It was very much thought of as A Thing Anglicans Do, not to be confused with the common (hmph!) celebration of Thanksgiving. It's probably related to the trends in worship among the emigrating community at the time of peak immigration from the UK.

    The date was determined by the Altar Guild's economy in decorating - usually the Sunday preceding Thanksgiving - so that the produce decoration would hopefully last for the two Sundays, with a few softening pumpkins and wilted carrots removed immediately before worship on Thanksgiving.

  • A Feminine ForceA Feminine Force Shipmate
    edited September 13
    The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair on the Exhibition grounds in Toronto in November is the national Canadian festival. It's a week long and brings farmers from the four corners of Canada to one place. It's so big, years ago they had to break it out of the CNE in late August for its own event.

    It's spectacular. If you've never been you should really go. My family exhibited breeding cattle there for a decade and nobody didn't look forward to it. The social highlight of the year for many farmers, horse and livestock breeders. It truly showcases the astonishing diversity of Canada's agriculture.

    Oh oops - we're talking about a church service. Sorry - not familiar with Canadian church traditions.

    AFF

  • Yes, Leaf, exactly. We don't do harvest festival at church. We do it in the community. And we still call it that. I believe that the community festival grew from the church one. That's why I mentioned it since the OP was about celebrations. In my experience, most festivals have a joint Sunday service at the local rink or legion where all churches come together for worship.
    The produce displays here are uniquely on the Sunday before Thanksgiving Monday. People would be surprised to see any appear at any other time.
  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    edited September 13
    There isn't really a nation-wide festival except Thanksgiving in the US. There are various local events, though. Corn mazes and apple-picking are a big thing where I am. Pumpkin picking is popular in the lead-up to Halloween.
    I think an argument can be made that in the U.S., state fairs and county fairs are a form of community harvest festival, although they are often more than that.

    As to the OP and how harvest festivals are celebrated in the U.S., as you say, in terms of a national celebration, that means Thanksgiving, which is traditionally celebrated with family/family-of-choice gatherings and a large meal. There are a number of foods that are associated with Thanksgiving dinner, both nationally and regionally, and families will have their own traditions. It is also a day for watching (American) football and possibly for parades, such as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. That parade, of course, is related to the idea of Thanksgiving as the start of the Christmas shopping season, of which I will say no more.

    In terms of church services, there really isn't a traditional church component associated with Thanksgiving. Services on Thanksgiving day are, in my experience, rare; services the night before are more common. (Thanksgiving is always the 4th Thursday in November.) Often, these are ecumenical or inter-faith services—in my experience, these "community" Thanksgiving services are the most common form of ecumenical service.

    Over the last few decades, I have seen increased emphasis on food security and hunger charities and ministries around Thanksgiving, and most communities of any size will, in my experience, have places offering Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless and others.
  • Leaf wrote: »
    IME of some Canadian Anglicans, Harvest is a church observance celebrated separately from Canadian Thanksgiving. It was very much thought of as A Thing Anglicans Do, not to be confused with the common (hmph!) celebration of Thanksgiving. It's probably related to the trends in worship among the emigrating community at the time of peak immigration from the UK.

    The date was determined by the Altar Guild's economy in decorating - usually the Sunday preceding Thanksgiving - so that the produce decoration would hopefully last for the two Sundays, with a few softening pumpkins and wilted carrots removed immediately before worship on Thanksgiving.

    Oh my! Yes! This has been my Canadian experience as well. I've also had conversations with the altar guild and worship committee about avoiding the civic celebration weekend because too many people would be away at the cottage or visiting other relatives. ...which would be a shame since the Altar Guild went to such great effort to make the space beautiful...

  • john holdingjohn holding Ecclesiantics Host, Mystery Worshipper Host
    The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair on the Exhibition grounds in Toronto in November is the national Canadian festival. It's a week long and brings farmers from the four corners of Canada to one place.


    I take it you live in Toronto (or southern Ontario). Growing up in Manitoba, just one generation off the farm, I had never hear of the Royal until I went to Toronto for grad school. I'm pretty secure that farmers and so on in western Canada would have been rare at the ROyal. I make no comment about farmers from Quebec or the maritimes, as I simply don't know. I've lived in Ottawa for 40 years and never come across a mention of it locally.
    I do know its a really really big deal from about Kingston west and south, until you hit one of the lakes.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    In this part of the UK Harvest seems to be a mainly Anglican thing. RCs are an urban lot so it doesn't resonate. Our place is heavily involved with the local Food Band, so we do that bit all year round.
  • A Feminine ForceA Feminine Force Shipmate
    edited September 14
    The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair on the Exhibition grounds in Toronto in November is the national Canadian festival. It's a week long and brings farmers from the four corners of Canada to one place.


    I take it you live in Toronto (or southern Ontario). Growing up in Manitoba, just one generation off the farm, I had never hear of the Royal until I went to Toronto for grad school. I'm pretty secure that farmers and so on in western Canada would have been rare at the ROyal. I make no comment about farmers from Quebec or the maritimes, as I simply don't know. I've lived in Ottawa for 40 years and never come across a mention of it locally.
    I do know its a really really big deal from about Kingston west and south, until you hit one of the lakes.

    Well my experience has been quite different. It's the one event where breeders from the entire country come to one place for one event. Western Canada has always been a huge contingent. Of course it's easier for more local farmers to get there but that doesn't mean others don't attend.

    A first place at the Royal pretty much cements a breeder's reputation for a year and drastically improves sales of semen and breeding stock.

    It's Canada's largest trade show for breeders. Even Americans show at the Royal.

    AFF


  • Alan29 wrote: »
    In this part of the UK Harvest seems to be a mainly Anglican thing. RCs are an urban lot so it doesn't resonate. Our place is heavily involved with the local Food Band, so we do that bit all year round.

    Our Harvest Festival has nothing at all to do with the Food Bank, it is a simple thanksgiving for the harvest. Yes, produce is donated to church and we donate what we can from that to the FB but frequently find they won't take some of it - last year they turned away lettuce, peppers, courgettes and cooking apples; fortunately some of the SS children brought tinned goods and they took those.

    The stuff that was turned away was either sold off and the money sent to one of the church charities or was used for that week's parish lunch with the money saved being similarly directed.
  • My rural parishes like to bring their leeks and potatoes to church to give thanks. And onions. And apples. We then give the fresh produce to a feeding programme in Inverness, run by one of the churches, and any tinned or packaged goods to the Foodbank. Interestingly this week I discovered that the new-to-me church I have added to my remit since last autumn, which I would have thought was almost equally rural, has not given anything but money for a few years. However, since the head of the primary school had asked that the children have their own harvest thanksgiving in the church on the Monday so that they can add to the church's collection/display, there will be a "proper" harvest thanksgiving this year.
  • AravisAravis Shipmate
    The Church in Wales celebrates Harvest on the first Sunday in October. This created a dilemma for our parish, as there’s a city-wide marathon that also takes place on that Sunday and the road closures run right between our two churches; as a result, we’ve abandoned any attempt at a morning service that Sunday, and instead hold a joint Harvest service at 4pm (once the roads reopen) followed by a bring and share meal.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Food banks have no way of storing fresh goods and don't want to give their clients manky veg (human dignity etc) so they only accept tinned/packet food,
  • Alan29 wrote: »
    Food banks have no way of storing fresh goods and don't want to give their clients manky veg (human dignity etc) so they only accept tinned/packet food,
    Yes. We sell the fresh stuff to our own folk and the money goes to Christian Aid.

  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Our church warden holds an auction of fruit and veg after the Harvest Festival service. And he's very good at working the crowd. The proceeds go to our overseas appeal.
  • Alan29 wrote: »
    Food banks have no way of storing fresh goods and don't want to give their clients manky veg (human dignity etc) so they only accept tinned/packet food,

    Foodbanks here take all of the fresh stuff and give it out that week. Potatoes, onions, apples, carrots, etc. are all regularly found in each food box.
  • AndrasAndras Shipmate
    Aravis wrote: »
    The Church in Wales celebrates Harvest on the first Sunday in October. This created a dilemma for our parish, as there’s a city-wide marathon that also takes place on that Sunday and the road closures run right between our two churches; as a result, we’ve abandoned any attempt at a morning service that Sunday, and instead hold a joint Harvest service at 4pm (once the roads reopen) followed by a bring and share meal.

    The first Sunday in October will be our CiW celebration too, though at one point it looked as if it might have to be moved back a week for pastoral reasons.

    <rant>I must admit that I get rather cross at the modern tendency to make people feel guilty that they are enjoying God's abundance. I blame Fred Kahn and others for this - Long have our human wars ruined its harvest - but it's all part of a tendency to confuse Feast and Fast, which also explains why so many people celebrate Christmas when they should be fasting for Advent and then feel so fed up with it that when the the real Feast comes, they're already tired of it.</rant>
  • Lily Pad wrote: »
    Alan29 wrote: »
    Food banks have no way of storing fresh goods and don't want to give their clients manky veg (human dignity etc) so they only accept tinned/packet food,

    Foodbanks here take all of the fresh stuff and give it out that week. Potatoes, onions, apples, carrots, etc. are all regularly found in each food box.

    One foodbank I know, not Trussell, sometimes has fresh food but will not put it in the parcels. Instead, it is put on a rack for people to help themselves. The supply is normally pretty small and that way it goes to people who actually are going to use it.
  • Aravis wrote: »
    The Church in Wales celebrates Harvest on the first Sunday in October. .
    Church in Wales Harvest celebrations around here seem to vary from mid September- end of October.

  • My favourite sort of harvest festival is Fall Suppers. They are sometimes said to be Fowl Suppers. A week or two after or before Thanksgiving (second Monday in October). A Fall Supper means turkey, stuffing, potatoes, gravy, peas and carrots, pumpkin pie and whipped cream. With variously: perogies, cabbage rolls, other pies. Tickets are sold, food is donated and made, and there are often multiple seatings in church halls. The preparation is part of the fun: nothing like a gang of people with knives carving up turkeys. I like to leave table set up to others.
  • Our food bank also provides hot dinners, so can use fresh veg that way.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Andras wrote: »
    ...
    <rant>I must admit that I get rather cross at the modern tendency to make people feel guilty that they are enjoying God's abundance. I blame Fred Kahn and others for this - Long have our human wars ruined its harvest - but it's all part of a tendency to confuse Feast and Fast, which also explains why so many people celebrate Christmas when they should be fasting for Advent and then feel so fed up with it that when the the real Feast comes, they're already tired of it.</rant>
    I rather agree with you on this.

    Somewhere - I think it may be Orthodox - can any Orthy shipmates confirm or deny this? - I've heard the maxim:-
    It's a sin to fast on a feast day.
    Part of it, is that it is rejecting God's goodness.

  • AravisAravis Shipmate
    The church in Wales lectionary encourages celebration of Harvest on the first Sunday in October, though it isn’t a hard and fast rule.
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