Across the country, communities are hosting harvest celebration festivals featuring music, games and lots of fresh produce. These celebrations are filled with so much tradition but they aren’t limited to North America. Harvests are celebrated year round and around the world.
In America, harvest festivals are quintessential fall activities featuring produce like corn, pumpkins, and squashes. However, these festivals aren’t limited to this season or these crops. While most northern hemisphere countries host such festivals during the autumn equinox (in September) or in late autumn months, harvest festivals can also occur in spring. The celebrated harvested crops also vary from region to region.
Harvests have brought communities together for centuries. In ancient Egypt, harvest celebrations occurred in spring and honored Min, the god of vegetation and fertility. They organized parades, music, dancing, and sports events. In ancient Greece, autumn festivals were called Thesmophoria in honor of Demeter, the goddess of grains. And the Romans held an autumn festival called Cerelia (in honor of Ceres, the goddess of corn).
This tradition of celebrating the change in seasons and a successful harvest continues to this day. Listed below are just a few harvest celebration examples that can be found around the world.
- Lammas in the United Kingdom. This festival has Old English roots. It was traditionally held “at the time of cutting the first corn” and wheat crop. Lammas comes from the phrase “loaf mass” in which people brought fresh bread to church baked from the first harvested crops. It’s now celebrated in July/August with music, dances, crafts and stories.
- The Mid-Autumn Festival (or Zhongqiu Jie) in China. It’s a harvest festival that honors the moon and has been celebrated for over 3,000 years. The festival usually occurs in late September or late October. It’s considered by some to be a “reunion holiday,” bringing families together. Nowadays, the holiday is celebrated with lanterns, dragon dances, and mooncakes, pastries filled with bean or lotus seed paste.
- The New Yam Festival (or Iri Ji Festival) in West Africa. This festival comes from an Igbo legend where a man was able to save his starving family by miraculously growing yams. This holiday celebrates Ahiajoku, the god of yams. It’s an August/September festival that’s found in Ghana, Nigeria and in African communities across the world like Dublin, Ireland. They celebrate with feasts, music, and dancing.