Harvest vs. Thanksgiving

“Is the Harvest Festival redundant?” asks the Church Mouse. Some of the comments posted in response would suggest that the answer is a qualified “No.” Having live most of his life in cities and suburbs, Tree can see where the Mouse is coming from. But in the Forest, Harvest is still an important time, and the children in our local primary schools still come to the churches for their harvest celebrations.

The Hebrew scriptures enjoin the Israelites to give thanks to God for their harvests. The Jewish festivals of Shavuot (Firstfruits or Pentecost) and Succoth (Shelters or Tabernacles) are agricultural in origin. So there is precedent in the Bible for harvest festivals. But in our churches the “traditional” harvest festival is a recent (19th century) innovation. The earlier celebration of Rogationtide is still important in rural areas like the Forest, though Tree has not thought it wise to resurrect “beating the bounds” in this benefice, as it would be a job for a whole week.

Mouse had wondered whether it might be more appropriate to replace Harvest festivals with something that would have more meaning in urban situations; something along the lines of Thanksgiving in the US or Canada. Tree is currently visiting Canadian relatives, and this coming weekend is their Thanksgiving (a few weeks earlier than in the States). He will share reflections on the experience in the near future.

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