Harvest Festival used to be celebrated at the beginning of the Harvest Season on 1st August. It used to be called Lammas which means ‘loaf mass’
[ad#125x125square]Farmers made loaves of bread from the new wheat crop and gave them to their local Church. These loaves were then used as the communion bread during a special mass thanking God for the harvest.
This custom ended when Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic church. Today we have the harvest festival at the end of the season.
At the start of the harvest villages would appoint a respected man as the ‘Lord of the Harvest’. He would negotiage the harvest wages and organise the field workeers.
At the end of harvest there was a big meal called The Harvest Supper. This was to celebrate the end of harvest. It was eaten on Michaelmass Day. The ‘Lord of the Harvest’ sat at the head of the table. A goose was eaten along with many vegetables. Goose Fairs are still held in English towns at this time of year.
Harvest Festivals as we know them today started in 1843. Rev. Hawker at Morwenstow in Cornwall invited local people to a special thanksgiving service for the harvest.
Hymns such as WE PLOUGH THE FIELDS AND SCATTER and ALL THINGS BRIGHT AND BEAUTIFUL are two of the hymns that are sung at Harvest Festivals. The idea of Harvest Festivals spread as did the custom of decorating our churches with home grown produce.