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Harvest Festivals

Harvest Festivals from Around the World

    British Harvest Festival

    In Britain churches celebrate harvest festivals when the wheat has been cut and the apples have been picked. The churches are decorated in flowers and greenery. Fruit and vegetables are also put on display, with a loaf of bread in the middle. Sometimes a plough might be bought into the church for blessing so as the next years harvesting will be plentiful.

    In Britain a corn dolly is created by plaiting the wheat stalks to create a straw figure. The corn dolly is kept until the spring. This was done as people believed that the corn spirit lived in the wheat and as the wheat was harvested, the spirit fled to the wheat which remained. By creating the dolly the spirit is kept alive for the next year and for the new crop. Sometimes these dollies are hung up in the barn or sometimes in the farmhouse or even in the church. In spring the dolly would be ploughed back into the soil. There are many types of corn dolly.

    There is also another story to the corn dolly which is to be found in the folksong John Barleycorn. Three men swear that John Barleycorn must die. They take a plough and bury him alive. But in the spring he rises through the soil. After a while he grows big and strong, even growing a beard, so the three men cut him down at the knee, tie him on to a cart, beat him, strip the flesh off his bones and grind him between two stones. But at the end it is John Barleycorn who defeats his opponents, proving the stronger man, by turning into beer.

    In Britain harvest festivals are celebrated mostly in Christian churches. An old tradition is to bake a loaf in the shape of a wheat sheaf, using the last of the harvested grain. The loaf is taken to the richly decorated church as a symbol of thanksgiving for the harvest.

    People who work in London markets have a special parade in autumn. They are called the pearly kings and queens. They celebrate wearing special costumes.



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