As I write this, summer is coming to its end. We’re moving into autumn. Very soon the church here will be holding our Harvest Thanksgiving services. And I imagine that many of your churches will be doing something similar even if Covid precautions mean that it will be more low-key than in the past.
Notice, I don’t call the event here a ‘Harvest Festival’. A ‘Harvest Festival’ traditionally meant something rather different. That label was used for the enthusiastic celebrations that once marked harvest-time in the English countryside – and which usually had little to do with Christianity or church.
If you want a graphic picture of a traditional ‘Harvest Festival’ in Victorian England, you could find it in Thomas Hardy’s novel Far from the Madding Crowd, first published in 1874. Here’s what Hardy’s hero finds when he enters the barn where the harvesters have gathered.
‘This was the night which had been selected… for giving the harvest supper and dance. As Oak approached the building the sound of violins and a tambourine, and the regular jigging of many feet, grew more distinct. He came close to the large doors, one of which stood slightly ajar, and looked in.