Every year at this time, when most children are deciding what costume to wear for a feast that toys with evil, our family gathers for the more serious fun of a Harvest Festival. It is a fitting tribute to our God the creator as we the sub-creators bring the intelligent fruit of our labours together. The students of Saint Herman of Alaska Christian School for over 2 decades of its existence have every year gathered for this festival at the end of October closed to the 28th, the feast day of the Mother of God, “She Who Ripens the Grain”.
Festivities begin with several recitations from the different classes. Poems are declaimed, stories are portrayed, and all people remember to thank the God who gives us life. Headmaster Father Patrick Tishel spoke of how the Mother of God ripened the figurative grain of the Lord Jesus in her womb. Similarly, we offer back to the Lord of life the fruits of our minds and hands.
Then we celebrate these fruits together by dancing contra dance, playing community games, and singing harvest songs. The contra dance we perform every year consists of selected moves from the Virginia Reel. Games range from three-legged races to the ever popular donut bob-on-a-string. The whole atmosphere is softened by the wistful autumn songs that speak of mother earth, nourishing food, and the imminent approach of winter.
Then while the oldest class prepares lunch, the rest of the school retires to a room where students all present something that they made from the previous year. Paintings with vibrant colors, models of fearsome ships, and artistic experiments with common household items all adorn the harvest table. One by one, the audience learns the behind-the-scenes story of each creation.
Festivities conclude with a lunch of stone soup, a special meal derived from an old folktale. In the story, three hungry soldiers come to a village in search of a meal but the villagers all fearfully hide. When the soldiers claim they can make soup simply from a few stones, the good people’s curiosity is piqued. They began to add food they pretended not to have until the pot was filled with food enough for all! Our own stone soup contains the customary stones and diners covet the local blessing of finding one in their bowl.
Dessert crowns the day with sweetness. Our own villagers bring dishes to compete in a baked goods contest. Judges debate fiercely over the relative qualities of each dainty, and a winner is pronounced in the two categories of adult bakers and children bakers.
Glory to God for all things bright and beautiful all creatures great and small. Glory to God who made them all!