In England, the feast of Harvest Home was usually held at the time of the Harvest moon, the full moon closest to the autumnal equinox (the word “harvest” comes from the Old English word for autumn, “hærfest”). Though Harvest Home traditions varied from village to village, all were meant to celebrate the conclusion of the farming year and the completion of a successful harvest. Typically, the local landowner hosted the celebration, with the head reaper appointed to preside over the festivities as Lord of the Harvest.
A typical feature of Harvest Home celebrations was the arrival of the “hock cart,” the wagon that carried in the final load of the harvest.
"An English Harvest Home" by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm shows a hock cart traveling through a village, having just visited a tavern along the way.
There were folk songs and later hymns associated with Harvest Home, and the festivities included games and dancing. The day culminated in an impressive feast attended by gentry and laborers alike. (As the local landowner, the hero of my regency Ruined by Rumor hosts the Harvest Home celebration for his workers.) The pre-industrial Harvest Home was a high-spirited occasion, one that mingled the expression of gratitude with jovial good cheer. And, even going back hundreds of years, I'll bet there were quite a few merry-makers who ate so much they couldn't wait to unbutton their breeches.
Alyssa Everett's debut regency romance, Ruined by Rumor, is currently available from Carina Press, and her second regency will be out in March of 2013. She hopes you'll visit her website and follow her on Twitter and Facebook, where she promises not to spam you relentlessly.