Giving thanks for the world's wholesome bounty
This time of year, as the long evenings begin their gradual withdrawal, the temperatures try but never again quite reach the peak of the carefree mid-summer days and the first hints of autumn disperse on the breeze, has long been my favourite.
It reminds me of all that is wholesome in the world, things that in our modern, urban life are easy to forget. The simple pleasure of returning to school, although I never appreciated it at the time, of brown earth and white air, ripe fruits, warm clothes and the sense the world is exhaling as a prelude to winter’s hibernation, are all symptoms that summer is winding down and autumn is upon us.
And as a school boy, the occasion that encapsulated everything this time of year represents was Harvest Festival.
Growing up in a farming area meant we marked the date – the closest Sunday to the Autumn Moon – with dignity and solemnity and left food for the elderly at church. It taught us about the eons-old connection between man and the land, as well as generosity to those less fortunate than ourselves so that wherever our lives have taken us since, we retained a profound understanding of where we came from.
I wonder if this is still the same for children nowadays. I hope so. Almost all cultures celebrate some kind of thanksgiving ceremony and it would do humankind no good to leave such traditions behind. Indeed as more of us lead lives entirely unconnected with the earth and how our food is produced, an argument could be made they are more relevant now than ever before.
To observe Harvest Festival, or any other similar religious or cultural festival, is a shared acknowledgement that we owe a debt to the earth for all that is provided and to those who create from it those provisions. The simple act of giving thanks for this is at the centre of what makes us human.