Churches up and down the country will be celebrating their harvest festivals this time of year.

But for too many people today, the word harvest has lost its meaning.

The shops are always full of food after all.

It’s only when we have a bad harvest and the price of food goes up in the shops that people take notice.

The word harvest is thought to come from the Anglo-Saxon word hærfest, which simply means Autumn.

Over the years it came to refer to the season for reaping and gathering grain.

The full moon nearest the autumnal equinox is called the Harvest Moon.

So, harvest festivals were traditionally held on or near the Sunday of the harvest moon, the full moon which falls in the month of September.

A very early form of Harvest Festival used to be celebrated at the beginning of the Harvest season at the beginning of August and was called Lammas, which means loaf mass.

Farmers made loaves of bread from the fresh wheat crop and these were given to the local church as the Communion bread during a special service thanking God for the harvest.

In Cambridge, where I once lived, there is an area of land called Lammas Land, which is common land for the people to share.

Lammastide corresponds to the Hebrew Feast of Weeks which the bible tells us was when a sheaf of the first of the barley harvest was given as an offering to God.

These ancient traditions were revived by the Victorians.

The relatively recent tradition of celebrating the harvest festival in churches began in 1843, when the Reverend Robert Hawker invited parishioners to a special thanksgiving service at his church at Morwenstow in Cornwall.

Today we join in that long tradition of the harvest festival and give thanks to God for providing us with the fruits of the earth, the sea, and the sky.

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