04 October 2018 by Roy Preece
Chinese just love festivals; now they‘ve got a new one to celebrate!
The Chinese love festivals. They have one almost every month. Now they have a new one you probably have never heard of because it only started this year!
The new festival is called the Farmer’s Harvest Festival and it’s not just to celebrate the harvest but to raise respect for farmers too.
With its rush to industrialisation China has neglected its farmers, but now realises the importance of land reform and rural communities.
As young men were encouraged to go to the towns and industry, the farms were left to older people who struggled to do the hard work. And if the young men get married in the towns their wives don’t want to go back to the poor life of a farmer.
Now the inefficient small peasant holdings are being amalgamated so they can provide a decent living and the Farmers Harvest Festival is a way to promote the new agriculture.
The traditional Moon Festival in the autumn had its origins in farming and was, in fact, a harvest festival, but it has largely lost that significance in modern life. So rather than use the traditional festival with its magic and legends the government has chosen to decree a spanking new modern countrywide festival devoted just to farming. It still encourages local costume and customs though and seems to be a lot of fun!
Even the date is different: the new harvest festival is on the day of the autumn equinox (when day and night are of equal length), while the moon festival is on the night of the full moon nearest to the equinox (the harvest moon).
The new festival is close to the traditional Moon Festival when farmers and their families gave thanks for the harvest, contemplated the moon whose phases controlled their lives and work, and told magical legends to their children, like the story of Jade Rabbit.
The Farmers’ Harvest Festival, however, seems to be purely secular (though lots of fun!) and, perhaps to emphasise this break from tradition, the new festival is held on the day of the autumn equinox (when day and night are of equal length) whereas the Moon Festival is held on the night of the nearest full moon.
With its rush to industrialisation, China has neglected its farmers somewhat but has now realised the importance of land and social reform for food production with 30 per cent of the world’s population and only 7 per cent of the cultivatable land.