Whether your planning a large harvest festival celebration, or simply a harvest themed toddler group session, here are a few ideas to get you started.
What is a Harvest Festival?
Harvest (or Haerfest) is the Anglo-Saxon word for the season of autumn and wasn’t originally an agricultural term at all, but by the 1500s ‘harvest home’ came to mean the celebration that accompanied the gathering of the last autumn crops before winter began.
To begin with, Church harvest festivals were simply a communion service where the local farmers provided communion bread which was made from the new crop of grain. The local people joined together to thank God for the provision of food. Over the centuries, however, this early tradition all but died out.
Our modern-day harvest festivals date back to the mid-1800s when a Cornish vicar decided that the traditions of harvest needed to be revived. The idea caught on in a big way. The familiar elements of harvest – decorating the church with produce, distributing it to those in need and singing harvest hymns all have their origins in this Victorian revival.
Our favourite harvest festival ideas for Childrens groups:
The three most important rules are:
- Keep it simple
- Make it participative
- Make it visual
- Decorate the front of the hall or church in advance with flowers, corn, children’s paintings etc – discover our "Tree of Thanks" craft
for some ideas and inspiration.
- Welcome everyone and begin with a simple explanation of what a harvest festival is and what’s going to happen during the service or assembly.
- Whilst playing a popular harvest song for instance, Harvest Samba or We've Got Tomatoes!, ask every child to bring an item of food to the front before sitting down and arrange the display (you may need some extra food items for children who haven’t brought anything).
- Lead everyone in a simple prayer of thanksgiving to God for all the blessings he provides and especially the daily food we eat. Perhaps encourage the children to think of a wide variety of things to be thankful for beforehand and incorporate some of their ideas into the prayer, or get children to write and read out their own prayers of gratitude.
- Sing a song of thanks for the harvest such as Harvest Hymn (Give Thanks)
- Read a harvest poem or a scripture passage about harvest, eg (Matthew 9:38) where Jesus says God is “the Lord of the harvest”.
- Explain that just as the farmer tends his crops and looks forward to a good harvest, so God looks after us and desires that we flourish in all sorts of ways. Explore what this might mean – being kind and thoughtful, being generous, helping others, doing ones best at home or school, etc.
- Explain about the distribution of food to those in need. Encourage the children to think about why it’s a privilege to give and perhaps explain about a local charity or food bank that helps people in this way.
- Finish with a prayer of blessing and another song of thanks such as For The Harvest.
Check out our Harvest album "For the Harvest" here!
Use the code FRIENDS20 at the checkout for 20% off your order
*Valid until 25th December, excludes nativities
Written by: The Out of the Ark Team, Updated by Hannah Rayson