Monday, October 8, 2012

Harvest Around the World

It’s that time of year again—the leaves are beginning to turn gold, red, and brown as they fall, the pumpkins are fat and round, and the farmers are beginning the rush of work to end the season. Autumn means a lot of things to a lot of people, but across the world it indicates harvest time.

Here in the United States we celebrate Halloween and Thanksgiving, rake up piles of leaves (and jump into them!), and drink warm cider, but what about in other parts of the world?

In Québec, well-known as one of the French-speaking provinces of Canada, everyone gathers together on October 9th to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving day. Due to their French background, foods like French apple tart and French bread are served alongside the turkey and seasonal vegetables that Americans also serve at their Thanksgiving.

A cailleac/corn husk doll
Even across “the Pond,” the harvest is celebrated! In (mostly) rural parts of Britain, people celebrate the last harvest by singing, dancing, and decorating the village with harvested materials like dried flowers, fruits, and vegetables. As part of the festival, they take the last sheaf of corn, called the cailleac, and form it into a doll. This doll is meant to represent the spirit of the field and so the harvesters soak the doll with water as a rain charm to bring good luck. The cailleac is saved until the spring planting.

Our final stop in our whirlwind tour takes us to India and the rice harvest festival. In the state of Tamilnad in particular, the traditional south Indian sweet made of rice, sugar, fruits, and butter used to celebrate the harvest is called pongal, which is also the name of their festival. Before Pongal, everyone cleans their homes—either whitewashing the walls or covering them with red clay before painting designs on the walls and even the floors. Pongal is celebrated over the course of three days: on the first day, the people thank the gods for the rain that made a good harvest, on the second day, they express their gratitude for the sun, then on the third day, everyone honors the cattle who have helped to both plow the fields and gather the harvest. The families take their water buffalo, wash it, then they paint its horns and hang garlands of flowers around its neck.

Want to learn more about festivals and events in other countries? Ask our librarian to show you our intercultural celebrations section. For books, stories, and information on the harvest and autumn—we have a display right behind the Children’s Room desk; any book that you see is yours to check out and take home!

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