Saturday, November 24, 2012

Giving Thanks in the UK

Harvest Festival  

In the UK (England, Wales, Scotland), they give thanks for the bounty of a good harvest in a festival held during the month of September, usually around the time of the Harvest Moon.  The Harvest Moon is the full moon that happens closest to the Autumnal Equinox, usually around September 23rd.  This festival is aptly named the Harvest Festival and is celebrated these days with singing, praying and decorating churches with baskets freshly harvested fruit and vegetables. 

 The Harvest Festival has been celebrated for hundred of years, in those days a successful crop could mean life or death for the farmer who needed that food to feed his family all winter.  Farmers would offer the first cut of corn to the god of fertility and the last cut of corn, which was thought to hold the spirit of the corn, was woven into a doll or other intricate designs.  This corn dolly was given a place of honor at the community harvest dinner and hung from the rafters until the next Spring, when the seeds from it would be the first sown.  By the way, the "corn" is not the same as the corn we have now, back then the word corn could mean any grain, so it could be wheat, barley, etc.  If you have access to wheat stalks and would like to make a simple corn dolly please click here to learn how.

In 1843, the tradition changed to include the church.  Rev. Robert Hawker, of Cornwall England, invited his parishioners to a special thanksgiving mass.  This eventually grew to churches all over England being decorated with gifts of fruits and vegetables and special masses being held on that day.  Most churches donate the food to needy families in the area.  Those who have a lot to give and be thanksful for help those who are in need of help - hmmm, sounds a lot like the first Thanksgiving in America, when the Native Americans gave a helping hand to the Pilgrims who were having troubles getting the hang of things in the New World.  Seems like something we should keep in mind the next time we pass those food barrels for the needy at the supermarket. Just saying.

I hope from the bottom of my heart that you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  My dinner for 25 went off without a hitch and we all had a great time.  It feels so good to have your home bursting to the seams with family and to see the smiles and contented groans of everyone after a great meal.  I am blessed to have all we need.  Maybe not all we want, but definitely all we need.  I hope you can say the same.
This is an example of some of the other designs woven from "corn".  There are many different designs all with different meanings. Click here to see more examples of the beautiful craft.

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