Any super observant readers of my blog will have noticed I did not write an August post, so I am going to cheat and merge August and September in to the same post.
Handily both months are harvest festival months so is the subject of this post. One reason I know it is harvest is that I live in a village. At this time of year living in a village surrounded by fields stinks. A lot.
One memory I have of the harvest festival period, which doesn’t involve horrible smells, is a tradition we had at my primary school of decorating saucers with small flowers and other things found from our gardens. The saucers would be packed with sand, the flowers and other items would be pressed in to the sand, the best saucer/s would win a prize. We would all take the saucers to school and then be placed in the nearby church for everyone to admire at the harvest festival service.
It seems that my old primary school has, until recently, kept up this tradition. I have tried to google these saucers but can’t find anything like it so I am assuming that it is something unique to the school. I would love to hear from anyone who had a similar tradition to this or would just like to tell me about harvest traditions unique to them.
Two traditions which are synonymous with the harvest festival period are Lammas and Corn Dollies.
Lammas Day originates from the Medieval period and was celebrated with a feast held on either 1st or 2nd August. This pagan festival is thought to date back as far as the ninth century where loaves were baked from the first freshly harvested crops, which would then be placed in churches and blessed. Hence the meaning of the word Lammas – loaf mass
The festival celebrations could only begin once the crops were safely gathered and stored inside. If the harvest was successful it would mean there would be no shortage of food for the year and perhaps a surplus to sell on outside of the community. Candlelit processions with the loaves were part of festivities in some communities. However, in contrast to the celebrations, chunks of the bread would often have to be given to landlords by labourers on Lammas Day. Rents and taxes were collected on quarter days and Lammas Day fell on one of those days.
Another tradition that has Pagan links is the Corn Dolly. Pagans believed that the spirit of the corn was present amongst its crop, the dollies were made as a part of celebrations at the end of the harvest season. The last sheaf of corn would be used to make the dollies as it was believed that spirit would be reborn in the dollies plaits. The dollies would then be stored until the beginning of the following harvest in the belief that this would ensure the next harvest would be a successful one. The dollies would take pride of place at celebratory harvest banqueting tables.
Corn Dollies come in all shapes and sizes, the practice of making themwentout of fashion once mechanization took over but has made a comeback as a different kind of hobby. If you would like to learn how to make one have a look on youtube, there are many videos on the subject!