The Harvest Festival
This article is adapted from the entry for the Harvest Festival in The Sâryan Encyclopedia, Cárshǒhl University Press, 22nd edition (716).
In Sáharía the harvest festival and autumn equinox, which is the midpoint of the year, are closely intertwined. Most places mark the equinox with the festival, though some communities, particularly in Ároca and northern Géirnial, celebrate on the full moon closest to the equinox instead. It’s known not only as a time for food, drink, music, and dance, but also as a common time for changes in romantic relationships—both decisions to start long-term relationships or get engaged, and to divorce.
A harvest festival associated with the autumn equinox seems to date back to the Célibrían culture, which emerged around the -1200s to -1000s. In Célibría, the harvest festival took myriad regional forms; Célibríans had highly localized deities, so each area or community had its own rituals to honour any deities associated with the harvest and fertility of the land. A handful of these regional harvest rituals were imported to Tílthoría with the Célibríans settlers of the late -600s. By the Late Sáharían period, when there were more records of everyday activities, there were only a couple (described below) which had survived. These were mostly constrained to the agricultural regions (mainly Géirnial, Ároca, and parts of Sílcavón), while communities with a greater focus on fishing or pastoralism (predominantly in Ároásh and Sílvashó) placed more emphasis on the autumn equinox and general festivities. With the decline in religious importance of the original harvest festival which resulted from leaving Célibría and its gods, Tílthoríans began associating with the seasonal symbolism more heavily. It started to be held as an auspicious, or at least fitting, time for decisions that were emotionally charged but required some consideration. This association narrowing to romantic relationships was already apparent among the upper classes in the Middle Sáharían period. In seasonal symbolism, it served to bring the life and passion of summer into the careful consideration of autumn and winter; essentially the timing served to communicate that one had thought through whatever proposal they felt very strongly about. While this was especially applied to beginning romances, the same logic—with the added consideration of not wanting to be stuck with a person someone no longer wanted to be around for the long winter—was applied to divorces. The alcohol and food probably also contributed (the very word célnalórn/“celebrate the harvest” is derived from the word for mead).
In communities where ancient harvest rituals are preserved as traditions, these tend to be the opening of the harvest festivities. In the morning or early afternoon, depending on the village, people gather to observe a prominent local—usually the village leader, prominent farming family, or noble—reap a special section of grain. Originally this was the best part of the crop, but most Sáharían villages have a traditional spot instead. These stalks are then formed into the rúscabérn—an effigy, typically humanoid, but some communities make equine or ovine figures, or simply a make it into a stook, which is then decorated with lengths of brightly dyed yarn (generally a favourite harvest-time activity among children). The rúscabérn is usually put back in the field the next morning, to return to the earth or be scattered in the wind. The yarn strands are usually collected to serve as auspicious hair-ties, or used as bracelets by children. Cooking and other preparations for the feast begin after seeing the rúscabérn set up, but a group children, teenagers, and a mix of adults usually go to an apple orchard to participate or observe a game of jumping for apples. Children typically aim only to reach an apple, while teenagers and young adults who participate seek to select a ripe apple as an indication of good judgement—someone who picks an unripe apple, either by wrong selection or getting the wrong apple, multiple years in a row generally acquires a reputation of poor judgement. After the feast comes a less well-documented tradition than the rúscabérn—that of putting the stored root vegetables to sleep for the cold months (jés yétifa cavó gírehínel). This usually takes place after the feasting, in the form of singing lullabies to the contents of local root cellars (either the whole community went to all in turn, starting with the village hall , or families with their own root cellar saw to their own). The lullabies also help parents, since this is generally the point at which children are sent to bed and the dancing, music, and drama begin.
Válorar Cúthyna (Autumn Equinox)
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