Do you remember Harvest Festival when you were at school? Everyone was asked to bring in a non-perishable food item from home; there would always be a loaf of bread made into the shape of a wheat sheaf at assembly and later in the day the food would be distributed to needy elderly people who were recommended by local old people’s groups.
Ah, how things have changed! My son’s school, the spoil-sports, not only ask that items are non-perishable but also request that parents do not send tinned food. Please! Harvest Festival was always the time to get rid of those tins your mum bought lots of on special offer then found that nobody in the family liked, such as fruit cocktail or tinned luncheon meat.
Now they just want packets of biscuits or suggest sending toiletries such as bubble bath or soap. You may invite an elderly person you know (can be a friend or relative) to come to the school for the harvest festival. Parents are not allowed. The donated items are then given to the people who attend. So there is nothing for the elderly who can’t get out of the house or who don’t know anyone with a child at school. But the grandparent of a child at the school, living comfortably on a large pension who can drive their own car can attend and leave with a goody bag.
Harvest Festivals have been held since pagan times, to thank gods and goddesses for a successful harvest. Originally feasting and celebrations would mark the end of the harvest, usually held around the autumn equinox. Corn Dollies would be made from the last sheaf of corn harvested, the farm workers would eat at the same table as the farmer and there would be singing, dancing and games.
The tradition of celebrating Harvest Festival in churches began in 1843, when the Reverend Robert Hawker held a special thanksgiving service in Morwenstow, Cornwall. This tradition was taken into schools and home-grown food was used to decorate the church or school hall and would be donated to the needy in the local community afterwards.
Almost every culture in the world has a tradition of helping the neediest in their community. It is a shame that the opportunity to pass on this message is being lost in many of our schools.
About The Author: Jacqui O'Brien is the editor of eParenting.