Harvest—the autumnal equinox, which takes place this year on Friday, September 22—marks a time for celebration and culmination, for reflection on the shortening days and on the balance between light and warmth and cold and darkness. It is an opportunity for us to consider how our plans have worked out, and to bask in the satisfaction of those which have led to positive results. And it is a moment for gathering of families and communities to celebrate the abundance we enjoy, focusing on the positives in our lives.
Harvest is a reckoning, too. Some things we plant just don’t come up, or if they do, they are stunted and useless. Hallows will be the time to turn those failed experiments into the ground, but Harvest is a time for acknowledging them, and taking note for next year’s planting.
The classic Harvest celebration is a communal feast: perhaps a potluck using local produce, or a meal you offer to your family, friends and/or community in your home. Harvest is “Pagan Thanksgiving”: a time to enjoy and reflect on the wonder, the extraordinary magic by which food just arises from the Earth, delicious and sustaining, and on our great good fortune to enjoy it. Even if you celebrate by yourself, eat well that day, and pause to savor the flavors and nutrition, understanding how blessed you are simply to have good and adequate food in your life.
My usual food blessing is this: This food, arisen from the body of the generous Earth by the power of the mighty Sun, comes to us by many hands. May all be honored and blessed. The unison response is, We are grateful to eat today.
But it’s a special occasion, so you may also want to include some words of gratitude for family and community as well.
It’s a time for generosity. Take some food into work, and share it. Volunteer at a local food pantry or homeless shelter. Be the giver of food, which is the giver of life.
Here’s a delicious and easy recipe for caprese salad that carries all the freshness and aliveness I associate with the season: a perfect dish for that Harvest meal.
Start with the best heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil leaves available. Arrange these in layers on a plate. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with the best available olive oil and balsamic vinegar (not too much vinegar, just a light drizzle), and serve.
Share your favorite recipes in the comments!