Autumn is upon us (in the UK anyway) and so is the time of harvest. In fact, did you know that the Old English word “haerfest” actually means “autumn”? Yes, indeed, and for those of you looking for some harvest festival printables for your children to help celebrate, we’ve assembled ours below.
When is Harvest Festival 2023 (UK)?
Harvest Festival is celebrated on the nearest Sunday to the Harvest Moon (that’s the full moon nearest to the September equinox). This year in the United Kingdom, the Harvest Moon will shine down upon us on Friday 29 September. So that means the 2023 Harvest Festival Feast will fall on Sunday 1 October.
This year’s autumn equinox is actually a couple of days before that on Saturday 23 September 2023, and harvest-themed church services can take place throughout September and October.
As harvest celebrations in general take place over several days, it doesn’t really matter when you have yours. Traditionally though, it was never held after Michaelmas Day on the 29th September, because that’s when the church decided that the Harvest Festival period should officially end. The idea was that all the crops had to be brought in before St Michael’s Mass and that parishes would then gather in their churches to give thanks. These days, dates are not as strict.
Also, it’s worth remembering that traditions surrounding bringing in the harvest predate Christianity by a loooong chalk, in the UK going back to at least Saxon times. Some of the very old traditions are feasting, dancing and playing games. Making corn dollies was also popular, which were carefully kept in people’s homes as a tribute to the Spirit of the Corn or Goddess of the Grain, in the hope that he or she would make sure there was a good harvest the following year. Not all corn dollies were made in the shape of a doll mind you, some were woven to look like bells, crosses, knots, spirals and animals such as hares and horses. Different parts of the country often had their own corn dolly traditions.
All in all, Harvest Festival time was a chance to come together and have fun, to be thankful for whatever the land had supplied, and to lift people’s spirits and put them in a positive frame of mind, ready to get through the winter.
After all that of course, we’re in the run up to Halloween…
If you’re having your own Harvest Festival celebration at your home, church or school, you might like our free printable poster: