The Harvest Festival
The Harvest Festival, also known as the Festival of Crops, has long been associated with thanksgiving rituals for the completion of harvest and fieldwork. The peak of this tradition occurred in the 16th century when the Harvest Festival became established in the estates of landowners. Of course, this custom, known by various names such as “wyżynek,” “obrzynki,” “wieniec,” or “wieńcowe,” was practiced much earlier and was likely linked to the ancient worship of plants and trees, and later with primitive agriculture.
Although the Harvest Festival, in a different form, has survived to this day as a celebration of all farmers, it is typically observed at the end of August and beginning of September in many villages in Poland.
In 2023, the Folklore Ensemble “Wielkopolanie” participated in the Municipal Harvest Festival in Witków and the District-Municipal Harvest Festival in Książ Wielkopolski. In parish churches there, the traditional blessing of harvest wreaths and ceremonial bread made from this year’s grain took place.
The wreaths, traditionally carried to the host after the harvest, contained not only cereal plants but also wildflowers, ribbons, and sometimes vegetables and fruits, often adorned with woven crowns, crosses, or hosts. These wreaths, along with the bread, became symbols of this year’s harvest and were used during the harvest rituals performed by the “Wielkopolanie” Ensemble.
“We carry the harvest, the harvest…” sang the dancers dressed in traditional costumes from the Krobia, Domochów, and Szamotuły regions. Over forty performers introduced the gathered audience to the summer and autumn traditions of Wielkopolska. On stage, alongside the “Wielkopolanie,” the local dignitaries had the opportunity to dance and then, in accordance with tradition, present this year’s bread loaf to the city’s mayor. They would go out to the gathered people, feasting and sharing the received bread (this custom was introduced in the 1980s).
After the solemn rituals, the Folklore Ensemble “Wielkopolanie” performed during a concert, showcasing dances and songs from various regions of Poland. In addition to their native Wielkopolska folklore, the “Wielkopolanie” presented dances and songs from the Silesian Beskids, the Łowicz region, and Kraków. The colorful stage, the dynamism, and the enthusiasm of the dancers were applauded by the numerous audience.
Harvest Festivals, celebrated not only in Poland but also in other European countries, although in different forms than the traditional, have become a permanent fixture in the calendar of summer and autumn holidays. It is the largest and most important harvest festival of the year, marking the culmination of the year-round work of farmers