Week 2 - Festivals

A harvest festival is an annual celebration which occurs around the time of the main harvest of a given region. Given regional differences in climates and crops, harvest festivals can be found at various times throughout the world. Each harvest festival around the world takes place during a different season, and has its own unique traditions and customs, with different food prepared for different reasons. But if there's one thing that stays the same, it's an overwhelming ethos of gratitude—a universal language of Thanksgiving which reminds us that we're perhaps more alike than we are different.


This Week's Family Main Activity: 

The common thread that connects all of the harvest festivals is gratitude. Spend some time with your family and friends, and create a dialogue expressing the things for which you are thankful. We invite you to turn this exercise to something with a tactile result like a wreath or artwork expressing your gratitude. 

This Week’s Family Song

The Farmer’s Toast - Traditional English Folk Song, as sung by Bridge

Sheet Music

Audio File


This Week's Family Story

Itse Selu: Cherokee Harvest Festival (Video Story - Read by Clare Blahnik)

Step back in time for a captivating glimpse of Cherokee life in pre-Columbian North America. Join Little Wolf and his family as they prepare to celebrate Itse Selu, the harvest festival. As night approaches the village, the magic of anticipation fills the air. The luscious feast, Grandfather's storytelling, and the sacred corn dance weave a magical tapestry of tradition.

ITSE SELU celebrates the rich and expressive spirit of the ancient Cherokee culture. The inclusion of Cherokee vocabulary introduces readers to their language and creates a unique texture. You can purchase a copy of the book through major bookstores or Amazon.


This Week’s Family Arts & Crafts Activity

Harvest Basket

Harvest Festivals You Can Still Celebrate This Year:

Olivagando: Olivagando is a two-day festival that celebrates the la dolce goccia or “sweet drop” of high-quality olive oil. Olives are a product of Italy that have permeated and sustained Italian food and culture for thousands of years. During Olivagando, oil mills, growers, companies, and conossiers come together to sample and celebrate the production and consumption of olive oil throughout Italy. 

While olive oil tasting is a central part of the festival, there are also a wide variety of other Italian foods showcased such as wine, cheese, cured meats, truffles, and newly harvested walnuts and chestnuts. The second day of this autumn festival incorporates St. Clement’s Feast Day where the new olive oil is blessed in ceremonies by local priests. You can find more information here along with a festival recipe.


Makar Sankranti: Makara Sankranti is an important and particularly joyous festival in the Hindu calendar. This celebration is dedicated to the deity Surya, the god of the sun, and marks the transition from the time of Capricorn. This harvest festival is celebrated throughout India and is known by different names in every region. To West Indians it is Makar Sankranti or Maghi, in the north it’s known as Lohri, and in the South this festival is called Pongal. 

 During Makara Sankranti, you’ll see children venturing from house to house, singing and asking for treats or pocket money. Typically there are bonfires and feasts to mark the day, and many regions that celebrate the holiday as a secular one focus on kite flying competitions. The fiercest kite flying competitions take place in the Indian city of Gujarat, where the sky is filled with elaborate, enormous kites and competitors attempt to cut one another’s strings. You can find more information here along with a festival recipe.


Kwanzaa: The origins of Kwanzaa on the African continent are in the agricultural celebrations called the first-fruits'' celebrations and to a lesser degree the full or general harvest celebrations. It is from these first-fruits celebrations that Kwanzaa gets its name which comes from the Swahili phrase matunda ya lewanza. Here matunda means "fruits" and ya kwanza means "first." (The extra "a" at the end of Kwanzaa has become convention as a result of a particular history.) The first-fruits celebrations are recorded in African history as far back as ancient Egypt and Nubia and appear in ancient and modern times in other classical African civilizations such as Ashantiland and Yorubaland. These celebrations are also found in ancient and modern times among societies as large as empires (the Zulu) or kingdoms (Swaziland) or smaller societies and groups like the Matabele, Thonga and Lovedu, all of southeastern Africa.

 Of course all of these societies have their own names for the first-fruits celebrations. Among the ancient Egyptians, the festival was called "Pert-en-Mm" (The Coming Forth of Mm); among the Zulu, Umkhosi; among the Swazi, Incwala; among the Matabele, Inxwala; among the Thonga, Luma; among the Lovedu, Thegula; among the Ashanti, various names, i.e., Afahye or Odwira; and among the Yoruba, various names also depending on the region, i.e., Eje, Oro Olofin or Odun Ijesu. The Ashanti and Yoruba festivals are usually referred to as the New Yam Festival, i.e., the time of harvesting the first yams.

The choice of African first-fruits celebrations as the focal point and foundation of a new African American holiday was based on several considerations. First, these celebrations were prevalent throughout Africa and thus had the Pan-African character necessary to be defined as African in general as distinct from simply ethnically specific. This was important to Us given its policy of making, whenever possible, a creative and useful synthesis from various African cultural sources rather than choosing only one culture for emulation. Secondly, the core common aspects of these festivals which were discussed above, i.e., ingathering, reverence, commemoration, recommitment and celebration were seen as very relevant to building family, community and culture. This is especially true in terms of their stress on bonding, reaffirmation, restoration, remembrance, spirituality and recommitment to ever higher levels of human life as well as celebration of the Good in general...Learn more about Kwanzaa here


Go to Week 1 - Cereal Grains

Go to Week 3 - Cornucopia