Harvest Festival - Foundation of Black Friday and Thanksgiving

Harvest Festival is a phenomenon that occurs all around the world. It is an annual celebration that takes place at the time of the main harvest of the given region. Since different parts of the world have a different climate this festival can be found in various places and times. If we, for example, take a look at England we will see that these celebrations date back to pagan times.

Present “Tradition” – Lack of Knowledge

In present, when an average American citizen enters the store and comes to the part where bread or vegetables are exposed for picking, there is no any special thought in his head. No picture of a harvest or sweaty dirty man that works in the field preparing the land for seed planting long before the time of picking crops. On the conscious level of thinking, you can’t find awareness of hard work and tremendous effort that has to be invested in order for harvest to succeed. That’s why many Americans don’t know what is the true history of Thanksgiving. The harvest festival is literally a cradle regarding the national holiday reserved for a family meal and expression of gratitude.

Opposite to modern-day people, our ancestors were perfectly aware of harvest complexity and reasons to be thankful when everything turns right. That is why in ancient time people held ceremonies and celebrations that lasted for more millenniums.

Harvest Festival – Ancient Traditions

  • The Romans celebrated Cerelia. They were paying tribute to the goddess of cereals. The celebration included music, parades, games, sports and a meal that was, by its nature, very similar to today’s Thanksgiving.
  • In Greece, the married ladies were paying tribute to the goddess Demeter. Demeter was in charge of harvest and agriculture. The event was known as the festival of Thesmosphoria which lasted three days. The first day was reserved for building the leaf hunts. The second was about fasting. Offering seeds, fruits, cakes and pork to Demeter and feasting was on the third day.
  • In China, Chung Ch’ui, a three-day festival, was celebrated when the full moon fell on the 15th day of the eighth month.
  • In Egypt, a statue of the god of vegetation and fertility named Min was erected on the harvested fields. There was a parade which even the Pharaoh participated in, as well as music, dance, and sport. It is said that the farmers pretended to be sad and wept when they cropped the corn, to deceive and appease the spirits of the earth.

Interesting Facts

There is a whole bunch of really funny or unbelievable facts for this event. One of them, for example, is, that harvest festival exists even in the famous video game World Of Warcraft.

Harvest Festival In World Of Warcraft

The storyline takes place in the famous world of Azeroth in which the everlasting war between Horde and Alliance is ongoing. A player is able to choose side and race of his character and, together with millions of gamers across the globe, start adventuring in virtual reality so large that it possesses its own culture. One of the features of the WOW world are holidays and believe it or not a Harvest Festival is one of them. While it might not be the Harvest Festival we speak of, the real-life event as an inspiration to the development team to invent the holiday for expressing gratitude towards the fallen heroes. This in-game event in the world of gamers is famous for traps and ambushes between horde and alliance. Usually, respecting the tradition, a whole group of players leaves their weapons and armor in a bank or vault. They put on their ceremonial cloth and go for a walk that ends in some relatively exposed place on the map. There, they get ambushed and massacred. Afterward, a retaliation becomes a must and war continues.

Sacrifices to Please the Gods

A print by Gallina from a painting of a native South American Indian sacrifice. (Photo by © Historical Picture Archive/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Pagan cultures, especially in the old era, are well known for their inclination towards sacrificing in order to please the gods. As you probably already know not only animals were ending as victims. Humans lives were taken to. In grand ceremonies with many spectators, as a humble plea to almighty beings, in an attempt to persuade them to give them a plentiful harvest, a sacrificing would be committed. These kinds of events would usually happen when a few years in a row there wasn’t enough to feed the people. It was considered that the poor harvest is a consequence of gods not being satisfied with the animal blood that was given as thanks in a previous year. Therefore a council would decide that human blood needs to be spilled in order to get mercy. Most of the times victims were forced on sacrifice. However, there were cultures that raised kids on the ideas that losing life for the glory of gods is the highest achievement possible. The sacrifices were most present in tribe communities.

Place Of Honor for Corn Dolly

Anglosaxon farmers believed that the last sheaf of corn contains the spirit of the goddess of grain. That is why it was a tradition to postpone the cutting of it for the end. A hare would usually be found hiding in the crops and together with the last sheaf of corn, he would be sacrificed. Later, instead of catching the hare customs changed towards creativity so the rabbit was made out of corn. Eventually, the hare evolved into a doll that represented the spirit of the harvest goddess.

Race for Last Corn

In some places, the superstition went to an extreme. Farmers believed that cutting the last corn brings bad luck. That is why they had organized so-called “Harvest Races” in which farmers gave their best finish before others. When a farmer would cut the last corn he would shout announcing his accomplishment. It wasn’t rare to see sickles flying through the fields.

Michaelmas Day is Another Face of Harvest Festival

This day celebrates the end of harvest on September 29. Many historians claim that this day originated from the fifth century. It was the time when the cult of Saint Michael was actively spreading Christianity in the west.

Modern Day Celebrations

Although a lot of time has passed since the first days of the Harvest festival a tradition is still alive and, i some places, absolutely sensational.

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Albuquerque is a city in New Mexico widely known for its privilege to be the host of international balloon fiesta. This sensational event occurs annually and starts in October lasting for a full nine days. These Fiestas happen in many places around the world, but one of the most famous ones is being organized in New Mexico. It is almost certain that every local is going to say that October is the month of magic.

The first event took place in 2005. Every year it brings happiness to children in schools giving them the opportunity, together with their teachers and parents, to meet the pilots and learn how the balloons fly. Pilots may choose if they want to lunch from schools or their campus. This is dictated by weather. The launch is scheduled for the time interval between 7 and 7:30 am.


Such a spectacle, of course, couldn’t go without competition. Competitors find their lunch areas that are in the allowed radius of the target. Target is set by BaloonMeisters. The goal of competitors is to drop a marker as close to the target.

Baloon Glowing

The first event of this kind(balloon glowing) was invented in Albuquerque. It was the year 1979. Local pilots raised in their balloons on the Christmas Eve night to thank the local residents. It was a breathtaking sight.

Balloon Fiesta launched its Balloon Glow, the world’s biggest, in 1987. Balloon Glow all burns, when all the balloons fire their burners and light up at the same time are perhaps the most spectacular moments in all of Balloon Fiesta. After the Balloon Glow large fireworks take place.

Autumn at the Arboretum – Dallas Tradition

Another tremendous celebration that is originating from the Harvest Festival is Autumn at the Arboretum that occurs every year in Dallas. If you would like to know what to expect the answer would literally be the “Pumpkin Village”. The word is about a nationally acclaimed village that consists of more than 90,000 pumpkins, gourds, and squashes. This event is known as one of the best pumpkin festivals in all of the USA.

Trailing of the Sheep Festival

Our next destination is Idaho. As the name implies, you can find many sheep during the occurrence of this event. The goal of the festival is to present and preserve the history of sheep ranching and herding in Idaho and the rest of the west. Idaho is the cradle of this event because of one unbelievable but a true fact which states that at some point of history, sheep population was six times bigger than human.

The First Sheep in Idaho

Throughout human history, a sheep was important being in human life. It provided man with food and fiber suitable for the making of clothes. Sheep were infallible part of European history. In the middle ages, Spain and England were large producers responsible for the introduction of the “new animal” to the new world. But it was not before the 1860s that Idaho soils felt the step of the sheep. Allegedly, the first man to bring the sheep in Idaho was John Hailey. He was a Congressional Delegate from Idaho Territory. He brought a single lamb. At that point, little are numbers of those who would have guessed that in 1918 there is was going to be more than 2.6 million sheep in Idaho. In numbers, their population was six times bigger than human.

Emergence of Festival

However, Trailing of the Sheep festival came way later. The first one was held in 1997. During economic development, farms, ranches, and open spaces were suppressed. The traditional way of living was almost lost. But, destiny had different plans. During the construction of a paved class trail system in Wood River that took place in 1996, an unplaned problem appeared. Finding a new way to build was a necessity. Local farmers agreed to give up a dirt road that was made in the early 1900s for sheep to cross from southern Idaho to mountains. The trail was finished and everything seemed until sheep started using it. That was when the hall went on loose. It was the moment when locals decided to share the history of their place with newcomers. Since then(1997), a Trailing of the Sheep Festival is organized annually in order to keep memories of tradition and past.

Importance of History Knowledge

If you take a minute or two to think more deeply about the text you have just read you will probably realize why it’s important to know the origins of things that affect our lives. Different people from different parts of the world having celebration motivated by the same thing – successful hard work and willingness to express gratitude. This fact is a magnificent testimonial that however different they may seem, at first sight, all human beings share the same core of their histories. Next time when you think of a Black Friday, you will think of Thanksgiving day and its cradle the Harvest Festival which was celebrated even by the old Romans and Greeks. And if you go even further into the past, you will get to the beginning – Stone Age. Prior to 9000 BC humans lived of hunting animals and gathering plants. It was around 8500 BC that we had learned to grow plants and transcended from nomadic to sedentary. The early development of agriculture can be traced to the Fertile Crescent located in modern-day Israel, Turkey, and the Persian Gulf. Because of these facts, both the Thanksgiving day and its cradle Harvest Festival should be a strong reminder that below our chest a hart counts down the time before we become the same thing as phenomenons we speak about – history.


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