There is no fixed date for the celebration of Harvest Festival or Harvest Thanksgiving in the Church of England. From various Tweets I have concluded (possibly incorrectly) that the spread of dates is the last Sunday in September to the second Sunday in October, which is when the Church I attend celebrates harvest.
I grew up in a village the size of many towns. A village does not have a market. I’m not sure whether by that definition it ever became a town, but we called it one anyway. It was in the suburbs of London. Fields, crops, herds and flocks were not features of our daily lives.
Harvest Festival there included presenting fruit and vegetables from suburban gardens. For the children there was sometimes instruction about how food is produced.
As an adult I have mostly lived in rural areas. From my window I am able to watch the changing seasons. There are fields with sheep, cattle and horses. Crops include oil seed rape, winter wheat, barley, grass (silage for fodder) and vegetable crops. One year there was a maize maze.
Everyone in the community is aware of the effect of the weather on the crops. We see the farm vehicles moving along the lanes. We are not far removed from the work, which puts food on the table. Many of us know some of the farmers. However the local newspaper included a comment from 150 years ago that Harvest Festivals were not common in this area then.
The tradition of giving thanks for the harvest is an ancient one. In the Old Testament there were two harvests. Their details are given in Deuteronomy 16, with instructions for the offering God required. Later they feature in the Book of Ruth – a lovely story and only a few chapters long.
It is easy to take the food we eat for granted. We should remember to give thanks for all our food, clothing and all that we have and enjoy.
Harvest Festival is a time when communities meet together for this purpose, remembering that it is the Lord God almighty, who provides and giving to others less fortunate than ourselves.