The idea of a harvest festival is actually very old. Cultures from around the world have been celebrating this time of year for the last millennia. Ancient Greece held a festival known as Oschophoria which celebrated the harvest of grapes to make wine. Oktoberfest began in the Bavarian counties during the eighteenth century. This celebration continues today throughout the world, especially in Bavarian areas. Helen, Georgia has a an Oktoberfest that lasts for several weeks from September through October. In China, the Harvest Moon is celebrated with a festival honoring family and unity.
Despite Thanksgiving traditionally falling in November in the United States, many cultures believe Mabon or the second harvest, to be the best time for giving thanks and reflecting upon the year. It is during the second harvest that tallies of stores are taken and the success of your crops and live stock is determined. Furthermore, it is the time families figured out whether or not they would have enough food to make it through the winter. By November, there isn't much left to harvest, if anything, and remaining stores are rationed accordingly. So it makes sense to give thanks during the harvesting season in September.
Traditionally this sabbat is celebrated with mid-autumn vegetables like squash, apples, seeds, nuts, grapes, wine, baskets which symbolize the gathering of crops, and sickles and scythes symbolizing the harvesting of the crops. Great feasts were commonly held at this time with lots of drinking and merriment. Hospitality was extremely important, as they may have ended up being the ones to help you through the harsh winter months if your stores ran dry.
Today, most pagan pride festivals are held during this time as a way to celebrate kinship, give thanks, and participate in service work. This is a great time to reach out to local food banks and bless someone less fortunate than you. As any witch knows, there is something special about fall and the harvest festivals that make the world seem magical and it is wise to say thank you and give to others this time of year.
How do you celebrate Mabon? Unfortunately I will be spending it working late, but hopefully I'll have a delicious meal ready when I get home followed by warm Dutch apple pie. (recipe to follow later this week).
To learn more, please read the Mabon Correspondences post.