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What Is a Harvest Festival?

A harvest festival celebrates the harvest of fruits and vegetables.
Mid-Autumn Festival, a harvest festival, is celebrated in a Chinatown in Japan.
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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 12 April 2014
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A harvest festival is a celebration of the fall months and the harvest that often accompanies these months. Also known as fall festivals or fruit festivals, these celebrations typically involve dancing, singing and decorations that portray a variety fresh fruits and vegetables that are harvested during the fall season. Many countries around the world celebrate some form of a harvest festival.

Worldwide, there are many different types of festivals used to celebrate a time of harvest. These festivals do not all take place at the same time, but rather take place at times appropriate for that country’s harvest season. These festivals almost always are accompanied by celebrations that include dancing, singing, crafts and a variety of games and recreational activities.

Harvest festival activities are usually family-oriented and are considered a special time for communities to come together in celebration. Traditionally, such celebrations center around fruits and vegetables that are harvested at that time of year. Colors and items used to decorate an area where these celebrations are held often resemble those of the items being harvested. A few examples of the foods found at a harvest festival are yams, cabbage and a variety of squash. In many cases, dried leaves and flowers are also used as decorations.

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Most cultures celebrate some sort of harvest festival. For example, in various countries on the African continent, festivals celebrating yam and grain harvesting are traditionally celebrated. At these festivals, dancers may wear tribal garb and masks, as well as listen to traditional music and tell stories in celebration of a plentiful harvest.

In the United Kingdom, a harvest festival may start with carrying baskets of fruits and vegetables to a local church where congregants sing praise songs for a healthy harvest while praying for future bountiful harvests. Following such celebrations, a special effort may be made to give food collected to the less fortunate. Large communal dinners may also be hosted where each member brings a special dish to share with the group while continuing to enjoy a harvest celebration.

A harvest festival in the United States may be featured as an outdoor festival where games are set up for children and attendees are encouraged to dress up in costumes. Often, such festivals coincide with the timing of the Halloween holiday celebrated in the U.S. Many Christian churches host harvest festivals as an alternative to Halloween festivals, particularly for those who are opposed to that holiday’s celebration. Such a festival offers another type of celebration where children can still dress up and enjoy fall festivities.

In Israel, a harvest festival may also be called the Feast of the Tabernacles, Sukkot or Succoth. At these festivals, a more religious theme is found because it is a time when Jewish people reflect on their ancestral journey out of Egypt. This type of festival usually revolves around prayers of thanksgiving, storytelling and meals shared with a community of other believers.

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