In cultures throughout the world, it is celebrated as a time of prosperity, unity and celebration. The harvest moon, the first full moon after the autumnal equinox, typically rises in the middle of September, but its late arrival this year will be heralded on October 6th.
While not unlike Thanksgiving in its intention and traditions, the ritual of the harvest celebration is deeply connected to cycle of the moon. At this crucial time of reaping the yields of an entire year of work, farmers were able to continue their harvest by the light of the brightest full moon of the year. The moon also lent its wild energy to joyous festivities once the harvest was complete. While you may not have spent the last six months toiling in the field, the harvest moon can still be a time of celebration and gratitude for whatever it is you’re harvesting this fall.
Traditionally, families celebrate the opportunity to spend time together once again after a difficult, but bountiful harvest. The world over, people still value the harvest moon as a time to appreciate one another. In China, colored lanterns hang in the streets as families gather to feast and celebrate the prosperity symbolized by the full moon. The festivities of Vietnamese Chu Suk feature parades, feasting and family gathering, as does the Japanese Tsukimi festival. Why not seize this symbolic opportunity to immerse yourself in your own family, or start a tradition or two of your own? Take a break from your schedule to remember why it is you work so hard all year. If possible, gather those who are important to you in one place. Try planning a dinner party or a weekend picnic and catch up on each other’s stories. If that isn’t possible, writing cards or simply making a few calls to your loved ones can help remind you of how very bountiful your relationships are. Our families — and these include our close friends — are what make our lives rich and meaningful. This harvest, make it a point to enjoy togetherness and to remind your family of how important they are to you.
Sharing stories is an integral part of most harvest celebrations. Over the centuries the light of the harvest moon became an ideal setting for reinforcing oral traditions and legends and passing family stories on to younger children. Share your story. Make your experience in this world be felt by others. It may be as simple as contacting friends and family or sending a mass email update on the last six month’s happenings. But there are many more avenues for getting your words out. Keep a journal; write a story or a poem. If you already have, look into publishing your words. It need not go through a formal publishing house (although that’s always an option). Look into the many websites and magazines that host works by contributing authors or have contests for new writers. Blogs are also amazingly convenient ways of making your stories easily accessible to others. Of course not all stories need be told in words. Painting, photographing, singing and teaching are all ways to share what you have to offer with others this season. And as you tell your stories, harvest the ideas of others by observing, reading and taking in film, dance and theatre. There may be few opportunities to gather under the full moon, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have an abundance of outlets for storytelling. If anything, we have even more tools with which to share and harvest ideas that will yield wisdom, community and creativity in the seasons to come.
Food and choice
Being grateful for the food on our table may seem as abstract a notion now as it did when it was drilled into us as children, but the truth is that until very recently in human history much of, if not all, of daily life was dedicated to the hunting or farming of enough food to survive. It limited the number of children families could sustain, the possessions they could accumulate and time available for education, pleasure and other pursuits. In fact, it is the cultures that developed the most efficient farming techniques first that emerged as the most prosperous nations today. With that in mind, it is easy to see why so many festivals and traditions honor the harvest. It’s more than a celebration of the season, it represents centuries of a cycle of hope and hard labor that culminated in a harvest that was instrumental to the survival of entire civilizations. Now we are not only in very little danger of starving, we can choose from among countless rich and varied foods to nurture our bodies. No longer beholden to produce our own food, we can choose careers suited to our passions and fill our leisure time with family, friends and personal development. We can look ahead to further progress in fields of technology, education and the arts — all because that most basic of human needs has been addressed. So while most of us no longer labor in the fields until the fall, we have more reason than ever to celebrate the bountiful seasons of our ancestors.
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