Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving, Miss Read Books And English Harvest Festival

A very happy Thanksgiving to you all! This is a Thanksgiving angel on my mantle.

Signifying the abundance of the harvest season. In England, although they don't celebrate Thanksgiving as such, their is the Harvest Home or Harvest Festival with links to a pagan past. The adopting of the old agrarian festival into mainstream church life began in 1843 when a Rev. Robert Harkins celebrated Harvest Festival at his Anglican church in Morwenstow, Cornwall. The festival has gotten attached to Michaelmas Day, around Sept. 28-Oct. 4th in the church calendar.

One of my favorite chroniclers of mostly vanished English village life is Miss Read, who has a series of books...I think I have collected them all..about several school teachers in Cotswold villages from the Victorian era to the World Wars. In the 20th century many rural schools were supported or maintained by the church and participated in church festivals.

The Harvest Festival was an important part of the Cotswold villages still so close to the seasons and agricultural roots of the area. The children had the job of decorating the church with produce from their farms and gardens and took great pride in doing so. Harvest loaves are baked as well.

From Over The Gate by Miss Read published in 1964:

For most of us in Fairacre our Harvest Festival is a well-loved and well-supported institution.  It is, after all, a public thanksgiving for the fulfilment of a year's hard work in the fields and gardens, and a brief breathing space before tackling the next year's labours.

Mr. Roberts, the local farmer, gives a mammoth Harvest Home supper in his biggest barn, at this season, but naturally it is the farm workers and their friends who attend this jollification. The service at St. Patrick's caters for the whole village....

The children...decorate the prews and other alloted portions of the church and we guard our privilege jealously. On Saturday the ladies of the village come with armfuls of flowers and greenery to do their share, but they always find that the children have done their part first.

Usually we tie little bunches of corn (Yanks, that's wheat to you!) to the pew heads, and arrange marrows, shiny apples, onions, giant potatoes and any other contributuion which will not whither or fade, along the ledges and window sills which we know by ancient custom are 'ours'.


So from my house to yours, my decorated front door to yours, Happy Thanksgiving and may a heart of thankfulness and peace for our many blessings fill your day.




Priscilla said...

Oh, Ruth, Miss Read has saved my sanity more than once. When the world becomes too much to bear, I can go get a Miss Read book and lose myself in a nicer world.
Isn't she wonderful?
I would love to collect all the books. I almost never see them for sale.

Johanna said...

Hello Ruth,
the book sounds really interesting. I have to look if a German translation exist. I love the Jim Shore Angel as I love all his figurines.
Best greetings, Johanna

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