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The Editor Speaks: Harvest Festival

The two churches I attend regularly, St.George’s Anglican and Elmslie Memorial, both have Harvest Festivals.

The accompanying images are from Elmslie Memorial Church last Sunday (14).

It was a lovely service with an almost full church that was beautifully decorated with produce.

The choir sang their hearts out to all the familiar harvest hymns and song and there was a rousing musical display from the church’s youth orchestra.

The food on display either went to their Food Pantry (mainly the canned goods) whilst the rest was made into parcels and given to people in need.

St. George’s held theirs in September.

Why do we celebrate Harvest.

It is to remind us all the good things God has given. This makes us then want to share with others who are not so fortunate.

Unlike the USA and Canada there is no National Festival in the UK and that is probably why we don’t have one here.

The nearest we have is Ash Wednesday’s Agricultural Show held at the Agricultural Grounds in Lower Valley.

However, all the produce there is on sale.

Harvest Festivals used to be celebrated at the beginning of the Harvest season on 1 August and was called Lammas, meaning ‘loaf Mass’. Farmers made loaves of bread from the new wheat crop and gave them to their local church. They were then used as the Communion bread during a special mass thanking God for the harvest. The custom ended when Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic Church.

At the start of the harvest, communities would appoint a strong and respected man of the village as their ‘Lord of the Harvest’. He would be responsible for negotiating the harvest wages and organising the fieldworkers.

The end of the harvest was celebrated with a big meal called a Harvest Supper, eaten on Michaelmas Day. The ‘Lord of the Harvest’ sat at the head of the table. A goose stuffed with apples was eaten along with a variety of vegetables. Goose Fairs were and still are held in English towns at this time of year.

The tradition of celebrating Harvest Festival in churches as we know it today began in 1843, when the Reverend Robert Hawker invited parishioners to a special thanksgiving service for the harvest at his church at Morwenstow in Cornwall. Victorian hymns such as “We plough the fields and scatter”, “Come ye thankful people, come” and “All things bright and beautiful” helped popularise his idea of harvest festival and spread the annual custom of decorating churches with home-grown produce for the Harvest Festival service.


“All things bright and beautiful” was sung last Sunday at Elmslie.

That is one tradition that is being kept alive.

May we always keep Harvest Festival. It is as pertinent now as it was then. If Global Warming continues and increases there may not be many harvests to celebrate. This is a warning to all of us.


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