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Harvest Home

Happy Thanksgiving! If you live in the USA, you're most likely getting ready to celebrate a Thanksgiving supper with friends and family this Thursday. (Canadians, of course, already celebrated a national Thanksgiving holiday in October.) 

But though Thanksgiving may seem like a purely North American observance, it has its roots in ancient European harvest traditions as well as religious rites that go back to the Protestant Reformation. The Puritans even brought their own blend of solemn prayers of thanksgiving and harvest feasts to the New World when they sailed to America on the Mayflower

"Crying the Neck," is a British harvest festival tradition that's
thousands of years old and was revived in the 20th century. It involves
cutting the last stock or "neck" of grain, marking the end of the harvest.
(Wikimedia Commons)

English harvest festivals date back thousands of years and many of the customs that started in antiquity are still practiced in some isolated areas of the United Kingdom. Called Harvest Home or Ingathering, these celebrations include songs, sermons, games and decorations using flowers and ribbons. And of course, there is a bounteous feast celebrating the fruits of the harvest.

One popular British harvest festival tradition is fashioning a corn dolly out of the last sheaf of corn. The corn dolly was often used in the centerpiece on the harvest table. The dolly might be sprinkled with water as a rain charm, and then kept through the winter and saved until the spring planting.

A Yorkshire spiral corn dolly. Corn dollies can be woven into different shapes,
and as this wheat dolly shows, materials besides corn sheaves can be used.
(Wikimedia Commons)

I like to imagine Regency boys and girls making corn dollies and playing with them. You might want to make this fun activity part of your Thanksgiving/harvest festival traditions, too.

Here is a YouTube video showing how to make a reed dolly. It looks identical to a corn dolly except reeds are used instead of corn sheaves.


  1. Again, who knew? Thanks for educating me on another interesting topic, Maureen. Those corn dollies are very pretty, aren't they? xo Jennifer


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