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Harvest Festivals

Harvest Festivals occur all over the world in one form or another depending on the religion of the country, the crops to give thanks for, the time of year and so on. Most parishes in the British Isles hold a Harvest Thanksgiving service in September near the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox, actually known as the ‘Harvest Moon’. Here are examples of harvest decorations from Bristol and Walberswick.

London has two (actually four) unusual harvest festivals in early October. The Fish Harvest Festival is at St Mary at Hill in Lovat Lane, near the old Billingsgate Fish Market, where a fantastic display of seafood, donated by market traders, is prepared annually by a team of fishmongers and market porters. The service is attended by representatives of various fish-related organisations and the Alderman of Billingsgate ward. St Mary at Hill remains the market’s ‘parish church’ though the Billingsgate Fish Market moved to docklands, near Canary Wharf, in 1982. The fine old market building, incidentally, remains on the north bank of the Thames near London Bridge. The Pearlies’ Harvest Festival, also on the first Sunday in October, is best known as taking place at St Martin-in-the-Fields, and indeed their annual appearance there is a famous London event. However there are two other Pearlies’ Harvest Festivals, at St Paul’s in Covent Garden and St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside, in the City. The Pearly Kings and Queens are a London institution on a par with Chelsea Pensioners, the Household Cavalry, Yeoman Warders and, God help us, Boris Johnson so you can find out about them in the ‘London’ section...