Burum Collective Column : Harvest & Halloween
Written by Helen Anne Smith
For the longest time I thought that harvest was just the time of year when kids emptied their parents’ cupboards of tinned food, and took them into school to be presented on a trestle table at assembly.
Now, I understand that harvest is when the fruits (and vegetables) of a growers labour are ready to be used for their intended purpose. Hops, and grapes will be ready for picking, apples will start to fall from trees, and perry pears will always be ready whenever you least expect it.
This year I am working my first harvest, and I’m lucky to be doing so with the incredible cider and perry makers Little Pomona. Me and my little black cat packed our bags, left the city, and are now living our best pumpkin spiced lives. I work harvest all day, and in the evening I drink cider and watch scary movies whilst she slinks around the caravan and drinks from the occasional puddle.
In just six weeks I’ve watched the gigantic Herefordshire skies move from blue, to pink, to orange. The days have grown shorter, and the nights colder—the earth’s breath levelling out as it slowly drifts to sleep.
As we creep closer towards the end of October, I decided to take this opportunity to have a quick look at the relationship between harvest and Halloween.
As some of you might already know Halloween is a holiday mostly inspired by Samhain; one of the four quarterly Celtic fire festivals, that falls between fall equinox and winter solstice, where people can give thanks for that year’s harvest and celebrate the beginning of “the dark half of the year”.
Freshly harvested crops and cattle were presented and sacrificed as protection from demons, fairies, or creatures of other realms, as it was believed that in the 48 hours over the 31st of October and the 1st of November, the lines between our world and others became blurred.
In the Middle Ages people would take their freshly harvested turnips, scoop out the insides, stick in a candle and carve scary faces into them, because they believed that the “Jack-O-Lanterns” would help ward off evil spirits. The now traditional use of the pumpkin didn’t actually appear until the 19th century – but if you ask me the turnips look ten times scarier.
Though there was a lot of fear, fire and some sacrifice at these events, there was also a lot of fun to be had, with bountiful feasts, fortune telling, and apple bobbing. Not to mention you could invite your deceased relatives and ancestors to join you and the rest of your family for dinner, which I guess is nice?
As positive as I feel about keeping demons away, I’m still not sure I’d be super thrilled if on Halloween the team at Little Pomona suggested we sacrifice our hard work by setting some fruit bins, or a pallet full of cider on fire.
All joking aside, working a harvest has given me a far better understanding of the fact that at the end of the day, we are all at the mercy of nature. It can take away just as easily as it can give, so no matter your beliefs it doesn’t hurt to give thanks for what you have, and nurture where you can.