Harvest Festivals


Harvest-themed Thanksgiving greeting card cover

The American Thanksgiving origins can be found in ancient Harvest Festivals. Harvest festivals have occurred for thousands of years in different regions of the world. A harvest festival is an annual celebration that occurs during the main harvest season of an area. These festivals often include feasting, recreational activities, and merry-making. One such festival is Lughnasadh, a Gaelic festival that marks the beginning of the harvest season. It was historically observed throughout Ireland and Scotland. Lughnasadh is mentioned in early Irish literature and is believed to have originated from pagan religions. 

Ancient Egyptians also celebrated a harvest festival. The Egyptian harvest festival took place during the spring-time harvest. The festival was dedicated to Min, the Egyptian god of vegetation and fertility. This festival included parade, in which the Pharaoh participated in, and a great feast. The Egyptian people would celebrate with music, dancing, and sports. The Egyptian people believed that spirits lived in the corn they harvested, and when they harvested the crops they would weep and pretend to be grief-stricken. The Egyptian people believed that the spirits would become angry with them for cutting down the corn so they participated in this act of sorrow to deceive the spirits. 

In Africa there are many harvest celebrations throughout the different tribes. The tribes living in West Africa celebrate the Festival of Yams in which they celebrate their yam harvest by offering yams to the gods and their ancestors before they distribute them to the rest of the village. This is the tribe’s way of giving thanks to the spirits for a bountiful harvest. The Yam Festival is usually held in the beginning of August at the end of the rainy season in Ghana and Nigeria. Another harvest fest held by tribes in West Africa is the Homowo Festival. This is a tradition of the Ga people of Ghana. The word Homowo means “hooting at hunger.” The origin of this festival is tied to the migration of Ga people to Ghana. The Ga people traveled for many years before they reached the west coast of Africa. During this time of travel they suffered from famine, however, they were able to survive because they helped one another out along the way. Later when the people were safely settled and had a bountiful harvest they held a feast at which they “jeered” at hunger and the hard times they had experienced in the past.

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