Harvest and Hallowe’en

The original version of this post appeared on More than Writers on 31st October 2016. I have updated it to include the differences in celebrating Harvest and Hallowe’en in 2020 with a pandemic compared with previous years.

The date of my original post is a controversial one in October.  Celebrations of Hallowe’en are regarded with anything ranging from acceptance to horror by different Churches and individual members of the Church.  Merchandise connected with Hallowe’en appears in shops before the start of the autumn term.  More and more families and businesses are putting up decorations.  Here in the UK it is not as prevalent as in the US, but is it growing.

By 31st October many churches will have celebrated a Harvest Festival or Harvest Thanksgiving.  There is no set date for this.  It is not a Red Letter Day.  By contrast Hallowe’en can be placed in the Church calendar.  It is the day before All Saints’ Day.

Celebrating and giving thanks for the Harvest is a long tradition.  In the lands where the Bible stories were lived out there were harvests of different crops at different times of year.  In the story of Ruth harvests of different crops (and their failure) form the backdrop.

I live in a village surrounded by farms; harvest is an important part of life.  It is hardly surprising that Harvest Festival is usually one of the best attended services.  In 2016 the Reader, who gave the address at our service, mentioned a crop, which may not be well-known in drier parts of the country.

The expression make hay, while the sun shines is all very well, but where the land is often soaked by the damp (very wet) weather from the Gulf Stream, hay has been replaced by silage as a fodder crop.  As I understand it silage is made from grass, which has not been dried out fully to make hay.  It is partly rotted by the time the animals eat it and has a distinctive rather sweet smell.  Before Harvest Festival, I had already decided that my photo for the original post would be of some novelty silage sacks at a farm.

When I was close enough to take my photo, I could also read the name of the supplier of the sacks.  Carrs Billington had been running a competition on Facebook and raising money for a charity for sick children – WellChild – through these novelty sacks.  (The previous year there were some pink sacks for a Breast Cancer charity.)

In 2020 our Harvest Festival was rather low-key. The church building was not decorated lavishly with flowers and fresh produce to distribute later to the very elderly and those in hospital or care homes. Instead there were donations of non-perishable items for the local foodbank. The service was attended by a few people, while others watched the live-stream or caught up later.

October has brought our thoughts to Harvest and God’s good gifts to us and to his creatures.  It will soon be Hallowe’en for which the UK government has issued guidelines. Do you expect any Trick or Treaters to call?  How would you treat them?  I know this is something I am not good at.  Some people might give them home-grown apples as an alternative to the sweets they expect.  Other options are specially produced leaflets with a Christian message and perhaps a puzzle. It is likely that children tell their friends which houses have welcomed them.

Personally I’d prefer October to be remembered for Harvest, but the majority of people are likely to think of Hallowe’en first.


Michaelmas Day

St Michael and all Angels or Michaelmas Day is 29th September.  As hubby and I had some “adventures” this year on that date, I am compiling them into, what I hope will be, an interesting and informative post for the following day.

Hubby needed to go to the local amenity tip (recycling centre).   He had suggested that we set off by going there and then continue somewhere for a day out.  I had only been home a few days after my recent trip (which as I mentioned on Twitter included travelling on 12 trains, 2 underground trains, 6 buses and in 2 cars twice each).  I also had to attend a choir practice in the evening, so after taking all this into account (not that I said anything), he decided to go on his own and then for us to have a short trip out in the afternoon.

In the morning I was able to catch up on some cleaning and ironing.  Over lunch I asked him what he needed to look for in the town we proposed to visit.  He didn’t need anything, so I went on the train by myself for the items I had listed and a haircut.  Meanwhile he made use of the good weather to do some gardening.  Rain is forecast for later in the week.

On his way home from the tip, hubby took the shortest route along narrow country lanes.  What he thought was a kestrel had flown out in front of the car and continued along the centre of the lane at 20-25 miles per hour just clearing the road surface with its wings for about 800 yards.  It had seemed to be waiting for a car to come along and disturb the wildlife.  At a fork in the road it flew over the hedge and perched on a post in the corner of the field. A conversation I had with our postman this morning (30 September) about birds has led me to update this post before its publication. He was amazed to have seen two swallows this morning. When I told him about the bird hubby had seen, he suggested it was a merlin as they are known to fly in that way. Hubby is now convinced that it was a female merlin. He had never knowingly seen a merlin before!

My afternoon out was not without incident.  A friend was arriving back (with a trolley case) on the train I caught so we exchanged greetings.  Another was on the station I arrived at, waiting for the next train home.

I saw a few more people I knew.  One had time to spare for a walk and after I had done my errands and had my hair cut, I caught up with her again and we had a chat sitting on the bench, where I had found her.

Readers of my blogs have an advantage over my face-to-face friends as you can make your escape without seeming rude, if I go on too long!  I told my friend about it being Michaelmas, which she hadn’t realised, although in the past she might have known.  The reason I told her was because the preparations for Hallowe’en were nearly complete at the hairdresser’s.  I had talked to the young lady, who cut my hair, about the day being Michaelmas (St Michael and all angels) and that St Michael was and is an angel.  She seemed surprised.  I said they were early for Hallowe’en as it is more than a month off.  (It is October 31st, for any readers who might not have this information to hand).  Her reply was, “We like to be organised”.

Coming back on the train I met another friend, who had also been on a journey recently, setting off later the same day as I had.  I had experienced more reliable travel than he had.  On my travels I had noticed pretty mauve flowers along the railway.  It took me a little time to realise they were Michaelmas daisies – I do not often travel long distances at this time of year.

The connecting idea between the kestrel, the hairdresser’s with its bats and St Michael is, as you’ve probably guessed, wings.  Angels are depicted with wings, although in the Bible there is little to suggest that they have wings.  Only St Luke (Luke 2:9-20) records the angels (a great company of the heavenly host) appearing to the shepherds at Jesus’ birth.  Their sudden appearance might suggest winged messengers.  Angels are mostly portrayed as unexpected visitors.  However in Revelation 14 St John describes angels flying in mid-air.  Birds, insects and bats have wings, but helicopters fly too.  (I am not poking fun, just looking at possibilities.)  Seraphim and cherubim have wings.  All the named angels are male: Gabriel, Michael, Uriel and Raphael.  Have you seen an angel?  The writer to the Hebrews indicates that an angel might be difficult to recognise.

Hebrews 13:2 (NIV)  Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.


Changing seasons

Today’s Daily prompt is about the change in seasons and how we feel about it.

For many of us the seasons are changing, bouncing unpredictably between cold and warm. Are you glad to be moving into a new season, or wishing for one more week of the old?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us SEASONS.

Here in the UK we are moving from summer into autumn. We have been blessed with the best summer weather for years and the start of autumn has been mild. The last two days have turned out to be rather chilly as the wind has been blowing from the Arctic. I must look for my gloves and a hat!

We cannot choose the weather or the seasons so we may as well enjoy them

I am including some reflections on important dates in the calendar for the next few months, which I was working on in the minutes before the prompt was published.

There are a number of days in the year which are associated with particular activities. Sometimes these days turn into seasons.
Hallowe’en is 31 October. It is All Hallows Eve – the day before All Saints Day (1st November) and incidentally two days before All Souls’ Day.

I went to have my hair cut recently (8th October to be precise). The salon was decked out with artificial cobwebs, spiders, pumpkins, a greenish-faced head with long black hair on a stick. (I have to admit that looking at it in the mirror without my spectacles I though it was a hobby horse!)
I didn’t think to ask when they had decorated! They also (like so many other shops and restaurants) decorate in February for Valentine’s Day.

I live in a village and don’t spend much time walking round the nearest towns to notice changes which occur day by day. We are preparing for Harvest Festival here. It is quite different from similar celebrations in cities.  Here we see the harvest being “safely gathered in” with combine harvesters often working after dark if it is likely to rain. City children are often unaware of the source of their food. It comes from the supermarket, doesn’t it?

Hot on the heels of Hallowe’en is Bonfire Night. This is not an occasion for decorations, but it is another commercial opportunity for some shops.

Next comes Armistice Day, better known as Remembrance Day on 11th November.
Poppies are sold and worn to help disabled ex-servicemen and women. Two minutes silence are observed on a Sunday and on the actual day if it is not a Sunday.

Another noteworthy date in November is St Cecilia’s Day (22nd November). She is the patron saint of music. The commercial opportunity here is in the entertainment industry, especially in out-of-town locations where there are not regular concerts.
By the end of November Christmas is the main theme in most shops. Cards, presents and other seasonal goods have been appearing since August.

However, there is an overlooked season on the approach to Christmas. Advent begins on Advent Sunday. As there are four Sundays in Advent, the beginning of Advent may be in November. Advent calendars and Advent candles have 24 days from 1st December to Christmas Eve. They are the best known items for Advent. There are also books available which are intended to help people prepare for Christmas by recognising that Advent (like Lent) is a season of preparation and fasting before a Festival. Children’s activity books help them understand what Christmas is really about.

There is a motto which is becoming controversial with a new emphasis on Winter Holiday: Jesus is the reason for the season.