Harvest Moon: Merriment, music and romance

The appearance of the Harvest Moon has been celebrated since ancient times.
by TK Maloy and Zeina Nasser

5 October 2017 | 16:35

Caption: Last year's Harvest Moon over the Parthenon, in Athens (Alexandros Maragos/Twitter)

BEIRUT: Sept. 22 was the autumnal equinox marking the descent into the dark half of the year, and also signaling all things associated with fall, including the Harvest Moon, which is the first full moon to appear after the equinox. 

Often this is in September, but this year the Harvest Moon will rise on Oct. 5. and will appear at nearly full-phase until at least Saturday.

The name came about for fairly simple reasons, but has been applied since ancient times, for the fact that the extra light provided by the full moon in early evening and after sunset helped farmers with harvesting the summer crop. This coincided with a variety of Harvest Festivals given the importance of stocking up food for a long winter.

According to the Farmers’ Almanac, a source for over a hundred years of much homespun knowledge, “there are just a little over 12 complete Moon cycles every year, on average ….The Harvest Moon isn’t like the other Moons. Usually, throughout the year, the moon rises an average of about 50 minutes later each day. But near the autumnal equinox, the difference is only 30 minutes.”

Additionally, the Almanac notes, “The Full Harvest Moon rises at sunset and then will rise very near sunset for several nights in a row because the difference is at a yearly minimum,” Adding, that it may even seem as if there are full moons multiple nights in a row.

The occasion of the Harvest Moon and attendant festivals is celebrated throughout the world.

For Chinese people everywhere, this full moon is the occasion for the Festival of the August Moon (the “August” is through a calendar discrepancy) or Mid-Autumn Festival (in some cultures, the equinoxes and solstices have been considered the middle of the seasons). This festival is celebrated with joyful games and the eating of “Mooncakes.”

In Korea, Chuseok is a major Harvest Festival and a three-day holiday celebrated around the Autumn Equinox.

In Japan Autumnal Equinox Day, Shūbun no hi, is a public holiday. Higan a Buddhist holiday exclusively celebrated by Japanese sects during both the Spring and Autumnal Equinox.

Perhaps more familiar, at least in folklore, are the traditional Harvest Festivals in the United Kingdom which are celebrated on the Sunday of the full moon closest to the September equinox. At these events, feasting was the rule of the day.

In earlier times, in the pagan and Celtic traditions, from which such things as Halloween (including pumpkin carving) and Christmas Trees hail, the September equinox as a cardinal point on the Wheel of the Year.

No matter what, sociologist and anthropologist point out that “Ample food and freedom from the necessity to work in the fields are two central features of harvest festivals: eating, merriment, contests, music and romance are common features of harvest festivals around the world.”

Of the latter, much was made of courtship rituals held under the auspices of the Harvest Moon.

Also of note, is that in the European tradition of the Harvest Festival, the horse bringing the last cart load from fields, was decorated with garlands of flowers and colorful ribbons.

According to HarvestFestival.net, a compilation of traditions from around the world, the "Feast of Harvest In-Gathering”.....marked the end of the grape harvest and the final Harvest Home in the Levant. The Canaanites (often mislabeled as Phoenicians, not a self-attributed name) ate, drank, and reveled, to celebrate the successful end of the agricultural year and the beginning of the rainy season.

"Dance processions wound their way through the fields under the full moon's light almost until dawn. Celebrants would carry palm leaves, and olive, myrtle and willow branches bound together and hanging with fruit." During the festival, prayers and magic were offered for rain. Normally, after the burning of the daily sacrifice, libations of wine are poured on the altar.

"Grape Harvest Festival Begins with the lighting of bonfires and dancing in the vineyards at night" -- perhaps not so very different from a modern day rave held in a Lebanese vineyard.

In contemporary Beirut, some spas such as Soul Spa in Verdun and are conducting “Full Moon Yoga & Reiki Meditation”. In the description of the event, the spa mentions that “It’s a perfect time to help us gain awareness in places we weren’t necessarily looking.”

It also mentioned that “the full moon is a time of positive opportunity. It pours down a tremendous amount of energy increasing your positive one, so remember that whatever is going on in your body, mind and spirit will be augmented to manifest.”

Other events related to harvest moon in Beirut are taking place in the Art of Living spa, Furn el Shebbak. They are also conducting a full moon meditation.

Social media platforms were also bombarded with posts, pictures, and quotes about the moon harvest. The most trending hashtag related to the event was #HarvestMoon.

Here are a number of interesting tweets, including the hashtag #HarvestMoon:

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