Harvest Festival is a great opportunity to celebrate food that’s grown and produced on England’s green and pleasant land - and also to help those in need by making gifts or donating useful grocery items to charities or community organisations. But where did it all begin, and what can you do to join in?

What is Harvest Festival?

The Harvest Festival - an ancient pagan ‘thanksgiving’ festival that is now a big part of the Christian calendar still marked in schools and churches across the country - started as an ancient celebration of the annual ‘reaping of the crop’. Over time, the event has taken on a charity focus, with food (traditionally bread and fruit or veg made from the glut of farm produce) laid down as part of a large community display before being donated to those in need.

What Is Harvest Festival? Loaf Offering

Originally Harvest Festival was called ‘Lammas’ which means ‘Loaf Mass’

Harvest Festival was originally marked religiously on ‘Lammas Day’, and one of the main customs still observed is the baking of bread for a church service on that day at the start of August. However, the name itself comes from the old English word ‘Haerfest’, which means ‘autumn’...and so many events take place through the whole season with stalls, fairs, displays, music and poems that celebrate farmers and produce grown on their land.

We plough the fields, and scatter the good seed on the land;
But it is fed and watered by God's almighty hand:
He sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain,
The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain.

A verse from a traditional Harvest Festival hymn

When is Harvest Festival?

Harvest Festival falls on the Autumn Equinox - Sunday 23rd September in 2018. Schools and churches hold assemblies and services dedicated to collecting a ‘harvest’ of food to donate to elderly and needy people in their community. Traditionally these collections included fresh fruit and veg or  breads, cakes and other homemade contributions - though nowadays organisations tend to appeal for more longer-lasting items such as coffee, tea, tinned foods and dried fruit.

How To Mark Harvest Festival

Bake For Your Neighbours

If you have elderly neighbours or live close to someone who might appreciate a food gift, consider baking them a fresh loaf of bread or a batch of goodies as a Harvest Festival gift.

Donate Food At School Or Church

Find out how your school or church is marking the event this year, then add a few extra items to your next shop - things like tinned soups or fruit and tea or coffee make good contributions, and pastas, spaghetti and dried fruits will last a long time which makes it easier for charities or foodbanks to store and give away over the next few months.

Celebrate British Farming

We celebrate British farming wherever we can at Morrisons - we’re its biggest customer after all. Next time you shop at Morrisons, visit Market Street to pick up the fruits of their labour (as well as the veg, meat and fish they produce too) and mark the Harvest Festival with a home-grown, home-cooked meal. You could also use Wonky Veg to add lots of colour and quirkiness to a display in your community.