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Field crops and harvest crowns in the parish church of Altenkirchen (Rügen)

The harvest festival in general is a culturally anchored rite, which is dealt with in more detail here under the catchphrase harvest prayer . Even in the secular area, clear references to this religious tradition can be found up to the present day.


The harvest festival (also harvest festival, harvest festival , harvest Sunday ) is a festival in Christianity after the harvest in autumn, during which the believers thank God for the gifts of the harvest.


During the celebration, which is usually held in a church , but regionally also as a procession, crops , grain and fruit are set up decoratively. There are also other products called gifts that are particularly close to nature, such as flour, honey or wine.

Thanksgiving crown

In some places there is a “ harvest crown ” woven from grain or grapevines in the church or it is carried in procession through the parish area. In rural folk church congregations , numerous parishioners come together for church services . The harvest festival is intended to be a thankful reminder of the yields in agriculture and gardens - and also of the fact that it is not only in the hands of people to have sufficient food. After the festival, the harvest gifts are sometimes distributed to the needy in the community, to homeless shelters or to charitable institutions.

Thanksgiving is also celebrated in other cultures, with the tradition of large folk festivals developing in South and East Asia , such as the Tamil Pongal or the Japanese Matsuri . In many regions there are also festivals, rites and prayers in spring and summer for a good harvest or favorable weather.


Thanksgiving carpet in the church of John the Baptist, Treherz

Thanksgiving celebrations existed in pre-Christian times. Similar rites are known from Northern Europe, Israel , Greece or from the Roman Empire .

A harvest festival has been recorded in the Roman Catholic Church since the 3rd century. Since the harvest is brought in at different times depending on the climate zone, there was never a uniform date.

After the Reformation , Thanksgiving was celebrated on different dates. Some Protestant church ordinances "combined thanks for the harvest with Michaelmas , others placed it on Bartholomew's Day (August 24th), on the Sunday after Aegidii (September 1st) or after Martini (November 11th)." Finally, the celebration became popular on Michaelmas day (29 September) or - most of the time - on the first Sunday after Michaelmas as an appointment. This regulation is u. a. to a decree of the Prussian king from the year 1773. This could mean that the harvest festival falls in September. In the meantime, the first Sunday in October is the harvest date in the Protestant churches in Germany, as Michaelmas Day , if it falls on a Saturday, is celebrated on the following Sunday.

In Judaism there is Shavuot , the festival of weeks, after the beginning of the harvest, and Sukkot , the festival of tabernacles, in autumn at the end of the harvest ( 2 Mos 23,16  EU ).


Decorated altar ( Niederwerth )
State harvest festival during the GDR era in Redefin , October 19, 1985

In 1972, the Roman Catholic German Bishops' Conference set the first Sunday in October as the festival date, without making this binding for all parishes. The harvest festival is not an official part of the church year. That is, the congregations are not obliged to celebrate the festival. “The year of the Church, which is oriented towards salvation history, has no harvest thanksgiving festival”. Nevertheless, the custom of thanks for a good harvest has long since become common in many Roman Catholic parishes, so that - in addition to the herb consecration on August 15 , Quatember and the first fruits blessing - in the Roman Catholic Church the Eucharist on the first Sunday of October is often called "Thanks for the fruit of the earth and human labor" is celebrated on the altar surrounded by Thanksgiving gifts.

In the area of ​​the Protestant churches there has been a change since 1985 (with the entry into force of the new Pericope Book ). This leads to the fact that the first Sunday in October is recommended to the congregations as a Thanksgiving date. Even if September 30th is a Sunday, the first Sunday in October should usually be celebrated. In 2006, the two mergers of the VELKD and the UEK in the EKD decided on a liturgical calendar which sets the harvest day on the first Sunday after Michaelmas ( 29 September ) if the Michaelmas festival does not fall on a Saturday. It now always takes place on the first Sunday in October, except in 2007, when it took place on September 30th.

The Protestant free churches usually celebrate the festival on the first Sunday after Michaelmas. The New Apostolic Church in Germany celebrates Thanksgiving Day on the first Sunday in October.

Other dates are common in some places. The Moselle communities celebrate the festival after the grape harvest on the second Sunday in November.

In 1933 Adolf Hitler initially decreed that the harvest festival should be celebrated centrally on the first Sunday in October. With the law on public holidays of February 27, 1934, Thanksgiving day became a public holiday on the first Sunday after September 29 (Michaelmas). On this day, the Nazi regime paid special tribute to the importance of the peasantry for the Reich on the basis of the blood-and-soil ideology . The central event was the Reichserntedankfest , which the Reich Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda was commissioned to organize.

A song about Thanksgiving that is widespread in Germany is We plow and we scatter by Matthias Claudius .

Thanksgiving parade 2011 in Clarholz

In many communities in Germany take place between mid-September and early October pageants with floats, groups on foot and marching bands instead. The representation of (historical) harvest situations is enriched with motifs that are reminiscent of carnival parades . The flowers used for the car decorations are usually real.

Known Thanksgiving Parades (with at least 50 groups):

Thanksgiving float


In Austria, thanksgiving is mainly celebrated in September or October, depending on the region and the prevailing type of agriculture. The Catholic Church prefers the first Sunday in October in urban areas .

Parishes in rural communities tend to celebrate at the end of September, in which rural youth - although non-denominational - are heavily involved. Individual communities know the custom of a harvest pilgrimage or parades, including in Tyrol . So Reit im Winkl makes a pilgrimage to Maria Kirchental on the Saturday before Thanksgiving , and Nassereith is known for its colorful processions .


In Slovenia, thanksgiving is called Zahvalna nedelja ("Thanks Sunday") and is celebrated on the Sunday after All Saints' Day.

North America

First harvest festival in New England with the Wampanoag , romanticizing history painting by Jean Leon Jerome Ferris.

In the United States, Thanksgiving Day is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November and is a national holiday. The festival commemorates the pilgrim fathers' first harvest festival . Traditionally, a turkey is eaten with the family . In contrast to what is usually presented in the German media, Thanksgiving is not simply the American version of the harvest festival, but - at least in the USA - a celebration of thanks for all the best and all success. The Pilgrim Fathers and all Presidents from Washington to Obama have proclaimed thanks to God. Obama: "We lift up our hearts in gratitude to God for our many blessings, for one another, and for our Nation". German: “To God we raise our hearts out of gratitude for our many blessings, for one another and for our nation.” Due to its family and social significance, however, the day is also celebrated by many atheists.

In Canada, "Thanksgiving" is celebrated on the second Monday in October (which is the Columbus Day holiday in the United States). As in the United States, Thanksgiving is a state holiday on the federal level and in all provinces and territories except Prince Edward Island , Newfoundland and Labrador , New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia (which provinces still celebrate the festival). Canadian Thanksgiving is closely linked to its Christian background in that it is also considered a liturgical festival in Christian churches. In that sense, it is more in line with European Thanksgiving customs than the US festival. Nevertheless, Thanksgiving in Canada goes beyond a mere thanksgiving for the harvest.


In Japan there is an old imperial harvest festival 新 嘗 祭 ( niinamesai "cost of the new rice"), a Shinto ritual in which freshly harvested rice is offered to the gods by the emperor . In the first year after the emperor's accession to the throne, the festival is celebrated as daijôsai (English: "great expense"). A first mention of this ritual, the origin of which is suspected even earlier, can be found in the historical work Nihonshoki from the year 720. There, a ceremony from the year 678 is reported. A public holiday has evolved from the harvest festival, which is celebrated on November 23 and is called the day of thanks for work .


Traditional thanksgiving procession in Castelrotto / South Tyrol
  • Jörg Koch: Entedankfest (Third Reich). In the S. So that you don't forget history: State commemorative and public holidays from 1871 to today. wbg Academic, Darmstadt 2019, ISBN 978-3-534-40186-4 , pp. 125-132.
  • Philipp Beyhl: Thanksgiving - a possible festival. New aspects to a popular yet difficult festival. Dissertation. Heidelberg 2007.
  • Leopold Teufelsbauer: Thanksgiving Day. With a song appendix (= liturgical practice, edited by Pius Parsch , booklet 9). Klosterneuburg b. Vienna 1933.
  • Hans-Jürgen Tast: Armed Holidays. "City and Country - Hand in Hand" . In: The archive . No. 4, 2009, Dec. 2009, ISSN  1611-0838 , pp. 40-44.
  • Hans-Jürgen Tast: Thanksgiving. A festival in the shadow of German history . In: Philately. The magazine of the Association of German Philatelists 62, 2010, ISSN  1619-5892
    • Part 1: No. 400, Oct. 2010, pp. 1, 66–69,
    • Part 2: No. 401, Nov. 2010, pp. 56-59.

Web links

Commons : Thanksgiving Day  - collection of images, videos, and audio files
Wiktionary: Thanksgiving Day  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. see also: Day of the Turkmen Melon
  2. Evangelical church service book . Supplementary volume for the EKU and the VELKD; Berlin: Verlagsgemeinschaft Evangelisches Gottesdienstbuch, 2002; Loose-leaf edition ISBN 3-7461-0158-1 ; P. 123.
  3. ^ Official Journal of the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland 2010, p. 483.
  4. ^ Rupert Berger : harvest, harvest festival. II. Liturgical . In: Walter Kasper (Ed.): Lexicon for Theology and Church . 3. Edition. tape 3 . Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1995, Sp. 821 .
  5. Bayerischer Rundfunk: Thanksgiving and folk festival. Fürth's “royal” parish fair . See also the article of the BR of October 14, 2012 ( memento of November 20, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) and the website of the Fürth Michaelis parish fair
  6. Bayerischer Rundfunk, television, October 6, 2019
  7. ^ Clarholz-Sundern harvest thanksgiving community
  8., The story
  9. ^ Neue Westfälische: Flower greetings from the farmers
  10. Verbandsgemeinde Heidesheim am Rhein: Erntedankfest 2011 - pageant sequence (pdf; 15 kB)
  11. Allgemeine Zeitung, October 2, 2017, Sören Heim: Heidesheim harvest festival parade with an impressive 58 numbers
  12. Wiebke Schwirten: Harvest Festival - 30,000 guests celebrate - Thanks for the great harvest parade ( Memento from November 7, 2012 in the Internet Archive ); Bergedorfer Zeitung, October 3, 2011
  13. ^ Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung: Thanksgiving parade at the top of Papenburg ( Memento from September 28, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  14. ^ Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung: Landjugend Papenburg invites you to the harvest festival
  15. St Bruno, Stommelerbusch: harvest festival
  16. Light of Sinai ; Editorial from The New York Sun on November 23, 2010
  17. ^ Barack Obama: Presidential Proclamation - Thanksgiving Day 2010 ;, November 23, 2010
  18. ^ Kristen Moulton: Thanksgiving: A Holiday For Believers and Non-Believers ; Article in the Huffington Post, November 19, 2010
  19. Statutory Holidays ( Memento of the original from December 18, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. ; Article of January 17, 2007 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  20. Embassy of Japan in Germany : Japan Information: Feature - Japanese Holidays in November . Retrieved November 22, 2012.