Motherhood has changed the way I view the world. I’ve shared on the blog before how my work at FEED in providing meals to children around the world has taken on a new level of meaning and purpose now that I have a baby of my own. Outside of my work, being a mom has also given old traditions and rhythms new meaning.
My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving (as a vegetarian, it’s the holiday with the most solid side dish game). And while I’m kind of in denial that it’s November already, I’m so excited to approach old traditions with this fresh perspective. I want to raise James to be a global citizen—someone who understands the world is bigger than him. And since the origins of Thanksgiving is gratitude for the harvest, I set out to learn more about other global harvest traditions with the intention of incorporating elements into our own rituals and celebrations.
One of the oldest harvest traditions, Mehregan is the Persian festival of autumn. As I learned more about the holiday, I was struck by the specificity of the symbolism. Elements like dried marjoram, flowers, coins and lotus seeds all have their own meaning in the celebration, which typically involves family members praying together in front of a mirror before throwing lotus over one another’s heads and embracing in celebration.
On the other side of the world, the people of Argentina celebrate a different kind of harvest for Venimia. On the final Sunday of February, the Archbishop of Mendoza sprinkles the season’s first grapes with holy water and offers the new vintage to God in gratitude. This ceremony begins a month-long season of harvest celebrations and festivities, including a famous beauty pageant parade where a Harvest Queen is chosen.
My favorite thing I learned about Erntedanktag, Germany’s Harvest Thanksgiving Day, is that observers create giant crowns of grain and flowers before enjoying a meal with family and friends. I’d love to make this a standing tradition!
Since Indonesia is in the Southern Hemisphere, its harvest festival actually happens in May, at the end of the rice harvest. I loved learning about local traditions during the festival: villagers hang flags and place small straw dolls in the rice fields to show gratitude for the harvest. The festival is also famous for water buffalo racing, which is probably not something we can incorporate into our Thanksgiving festivities, but amazing nonetheless.
I can’t wait to teach James about these global traditions. No matter what harvest tradition we celebrate, I love that at the center of every harvest festival is gratitude for what we have and celebration of what makes our own cultures unique.