Harvest Festivals

Harvest festivals in the United States are often associated with fall festivals. However, harvest times throughout the world in different climate zones vary considerably. Food harvests are important to most peoples around the globe, and they hold their harvest fairs at whatever time of year is appropriate for their location. Many of the best harvest events also play roles as food festivals. For instance, the famous Munich Oktoberfest was originally an agricultural show combined with celebrating the end of a long farm season with drinking home-brewed beer and feasting on traditional Bavarian foods.

In most northern climes, harvest festivals do coincide with the autumn months. This is true of the Moon Festival celebrated in China and certain other countries in Asia. It is also called the Harvest Moon Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival. It has been celebrated for more than 3,000 years. Many of the features that once related to harvesting food crops have now disappeared, but it is still a time for families to gather and enjoy feasts together, and there are certain special foods associated with it.

Among the best harvest events in the United States is Thanksgiving—the quintessential celebration of harvest and plenty of food to go around. This event, now a national holiday in the United States (and Canada) originated in the early 1700s when settlers chose a certain day after all the work to harvest crops was finished to feast and give thanksgiving for their bounty.

The exact timing of harvest events is usually around the optimal harvest time of whatever crop dominates that region. In regions with climates like New England, it is the apple crop and other orchard fruits that dominate. In these places, you will find harvest festivals like the Apple Harvest Festival in Southington, Connecticut. In other New England areas, it might be a maple syrup or pumpkin festival. Argentina is becoming more and more respected for its fine wines. Here you will find a Grape Harvest Festival celebrated in March because spring is the harvest time in the Southern Hemisphere.

The best harvest events will still showcase the traditions upon which they were originally based. Most true harvest fairs originally involved some aspect of farming, crops, and harvest. The best of today's still do. Every state has a state fair. There are numerous county fairs, most of which still offer events like tractor pulls, 4H exhibits, farm animal prize competitions, country cooking competitions, and even rodeo events. Many of these, like the Sandwich Fair in New Hampshire, have grown to include a carnival complete with rides and midways. Sometimes, they will include food festivals to highlight the region's cuisine.

For some regions, the "crop" that dominates is the bounty of the sea. Thus, you have the October Gulf Coast Shrimp Festival, which is particularly celebrated in Alabama. Similarly, there is the Galway International Oyster Festival held in September to mark the beginning of the oyster season in that part of Ireland. Tourist boards, chambers of commerce, and commercial promoters everywhere have piggy-backed on traditional harvest festivals to introduce all kinds of festivals from spectacular retail sales events and haute couture fashion shows to international music festivals.

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