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Harvest 2004


The modern Harvest festival falls on September 29th, Michaelmas, “The feast of the Archangel Michael”. The fact that this date co-incides closely to the Autumn equinox (usually September 21st) suggests that this festival has pre-Christian origins. This view is strengthened by the fact that Harvest is obviously partnered with Lamas, with some traditions creating a local “Lord of the Harvest” at Lamas, who presides over the Harvest feast.
However, there is really no archaeological or historical evidence for this:
While the Celtic peoples may have had a party once the corn was reaped, they certainly didn’t formalise this into a religious ceremony. Their harvest festival was Lughnasa, at the beginning of August, celebrating the success of the year’s crops, and the start of harvest.
The Romans tended to have minor celebrations as each crop was brought in: a celebration of the vineyards, corn, apples, etc. Their major harvest festival was the Consuelia in August, celebrating the success of the storage of last year’s harvest through the year.

It has been suggested that the Cerelia, a festival of the Roman corn goddess Ceres, was a harvest festival, since it occurs on 4th October. However, this date was a calendrical mistake. The Cerelia was instituted in 191 BC, at which time October was still the 8th month of the year, and the calendar had been allowed to ‘slip’ by 3 months. So the Cerelia actually occurred around April time, and was designed to encourage the growth of the corn. To help with this, the people fasted in fear of the goddess’s wrath, rather than thanking her by feasting on her abundant gifts!
The Saxons, likewise, appear not to have celebrated the end of harvest. Although their name for the month of September translates roughly as “Holy month”, there is no historical or archaeological evidence for a specific festival.
So, it appears that the modern harvest festival is a thoroughbred Christian festival after all!

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Harvest 2004
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