The moon continually waxes and wanes throughout the year, but full moons have traditionally been given some beautifully poetic names – Moon after Yule and the Wolf Moon happen in the first quarter of the year while Spring brings the Egg, Milk and Flower Moons, for example.
In late September/early October, however, we see a particularly significant lunar event – the Harvest Moon.
For most of the year the moon rises about 50 minutes later than it did the night before, but around the Autumn equinox the moon rises less than 30 minutes later each night. This means that for several nights either side of an Autumn full moon there is little or no time between sunset and moonrise. Traditionally, this meant that farmers could work late into the night bringing in their crops by the light of the ‘Harvest’ moon!
Of course, successful harvests have been celebrated for thousands of years, but the Harvest Festival
as we know it was first introduced by Rev Robert Stephen Hawker on 1 October 1843 when he invited his Cornish parishioners to give thanks to God for the plentiful harvest. Nowadays our food is as likely to come from Italy, Greece or the Dominican Republic as it is from a local farm, but the tradition of showing our gratitude for the food that is put on our plates seems as relevant now as it was 174 years ago.
Schools, churches and communities all over the country still take the time to say ‘thank you’ for their food and to remember all the food growers and producers during Harvest Festival church services or Harvest assemblies in schools.
Here are our top 5 ideas for celebrating Harvest Festival in your school:
Make a celebration collage of any food specialities your area is well known for producing.
Ask your class to make a note of where the food they have at home has come from. In school you could create a food globe to map where most of the food has originated from and calculate the number of ‘food miles’ travelled.
Grow a cress caterpillar by taking an egg carton, cutting it down the middle lengthways and planting cress seeds in each compartment.
How about making a harvest cross? If you don’t have access to wheat stems, then art straws will do just as well.
Try making a papier-mâché Harvest Moon. Using photos of the lunar surface as a guide, shape craters and surface details. Try wadding up balls of paper, then covering them with a sheet of newspaper to make small mountains. You could paint the surface white, or make it orange like a Harvest Moon (when the moon is near the horizon we see it through the maximum thickness of atmosphere. It appears orange because the atmosphere scatters blue light but allows red light to pass through).
Of course, no harvest celebration would be complete without songs and, whether it’s singing traditional favourites like We Plough The Fields And Scatter
or some of the bumper crop of contemporary harvest songs from Out of the Ark Music, there is always something to sing about during Harvest celebrations
Here are our top 5 Harvest songs:
Harvest Song from Songs for EVERY Season. This laid-back but positive song gives thanks for the harvest. The farmer’s year in recounted, through the process of preparation, sowing, growing and finally harvesting.
Harvest Samba from Songs for EVERY Occasion has a Latin style! It’s a musical feast with great descriptions and really fun rhymes that is guaranteed to be very popular with the whole school. It has some two-part singing towards the end of the song.
A Big Red Combine Harvester from the Niki Davies Book of Autumn and Winter Songs. Simple lyrics and repetitive melodies ensure this is the perfect song for younger voices.
Everybody Praise Him from A Combined Harvest is a wonderful song which can be used as a reminder of all the good things we’ve been given and encouragement for everyone to come together in gratitude. Perfect for children aged 5–11.
Or there’s Harvest Festival from Sing™ Harvest – a great song to show all the wonderful gifts that will have been given at the harvest table.
And if you are looking for something a little more traditional, why not sing All Things Bright And Beautiful
which can be found in our Essential Assembly Hymns
songbook – a classic choice!