A harvest festival for America

The United States has no harvest festival celebration on a national level.  Most other countries with an agrarian past recognize the importance of the annual harvest, the joy of abundance, and the fruits of shared labor.  Oktoberfest in Germany, Thanksgiving in Canada, these are holidays with ancient roots, based on the relief and happiness that harvest time brought, when the crops were in, and the hard work was done.

This was the one ancient festival which enjoyed a broad menu, because so many products which were not suitable for long-term storage were available.  Fresh fruits  and vegetables were a true luxury for our ancestors, and diets were often monotonous.   Music and dancing were enjoyed during harvest festivals, a rarity in a time without recorded music.  For many, this would be the last social event they would participate in until the Yule Tide.  Autumn was a time of conserving resources, hoarding food and fuel for the long winter months ahead.

America’s only nod to a harvest festival is Thanksgiving, a totally artificial, contrived holiday with no historical basis.  Too late in the year for the outdoor festivities of harvest time, Thanksgiving is meant only to be the recognition of the saving of the Pilgrims by the generosity  of the Native Americans who saved them from starving to death.  Somehow, this supplanted the more traditional harvest festivals, although some are still held locally.

Perhaps the worst thing about the American Thanksgiving is that it now juxtaposes two conflicting concepts, Death and eternal life.  Death is represented by the harvest, the cornucopia, the autumn colors.  The sacrifice made so that Life can continue.   Eternal life is represented by the Yule Tide colors used in the commercials advertising the Black Friday sales.  And Thanksgiving does not mark the start of the ‘Holiday Season.’  At least, not in my book.  No, Thanksgiving falls at a time when we are genetically inclined to be less active, so that we may conserve our resources.  Thousands of generations have survived by hunkering down during autumn.

Some how, I would like to see a revival of the ancient harvest festival, held in late September or early October, as a time to recognize the importance of working together, sharing the abundance of the Earth, and of community, without which none of us would be here.  This would be a completely natural holiday, one rich in traditions, and intuitively understood.

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